29 Nisan 2013 Pazartesi
Too early for shale gas boom in Turkey: chief economist
It would be a big surprise if Turkey experienced a significant turnaround in shale gas production, similar to that in the US, in the short term, the International Energy Agency's (IEA) chief economist said at a conference on Friday in İstanbul, adding that it is too early to say whether shale gas production will be financially viable for the country.
Speaking on the sidelines of the 19th Energy and Environment Fair and Conference (ICCI), Fatih Birol said Turkey has “golden opportunities to be a crucial player in global energy markets within the next five years.”
“The issue of shale gas production is very new in Turkey. There are serious studies in this regard; however, we have not yet learned whether this type of unconventional energy will be competitive enough in Turkey,” Birol explained.
The IEA official added that despite early feasibility studies, it is not still clear if the cost of shale gas extraction will be cheaper when compared to simply importing natural gas from suppliers in the region. “We would welcome a US-like shale gas revolution in Turkey in the short term; this, however, would be a big surprise for us,” he added.
Excitement over the prospect of trillions of cubic meters of shale gas in Turkey has kept the country's agenda busy in recent years as these estimates mean that Turkey, which is almost completely dependent on foreign countries for fuel resources, could finally be energy independent.
However, observers warned that this field of the energy sector is still in its infancy in Turkey and that it is impossible to get a truly accurate picture of the country's shale reserves at this point. Royal Dutch Shell and US company TransAtlantic Petroleum Ltd. are among the leading firms that have already commenced studies for shale gas extraction in eastern and western Turkey, respectively.
On the one side, going by the shale gas production boom, many market experts believe the US is likely to replace Russia as the world's number one gas producer. Others, like the Canada-based Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), think the shale gas sector in the US is “a gigantic hyped confidence bubble that is already beginning to deflate.”
Underlining that the foundations of the global energy system are shifting, Birol said that the changing global energy map is likely to have major implications for regional geopolitics. “Shale gas is emerging as a critical game-changer in the global gas markets. At its highest level in 2012, the gas in European markets was traded five times higher than in the US, while this figure was eight times for Japan, a price difference stemming from this very unconventional gas revolution,” he asserted. Birol said that increases in the number of gas sources will benefit gas importers like Turkey because these countries have the upper hand in bargaining with suppliers for relatively lower tariffs.
The hot competition will benefit buyers like Turkey as they will have the chance to buy gas at lower prices when they renew their purchase contracts, Birol said, adding that the same applies for Europe: Gas import contracts with European countries of a total capacity of 156 billion cubic meters per year expire before 2035.
Recalling that Turkey's natural gas demand has more than doubled over the past decade to reach 45 billion cubic meters in 2012, Birol said that Ankara has to employ a careful energy policy in its region. “The cost of natural gas from Iraqi resources will be relatively lower; Turkey also needs to focus on these [domestic] markets as soon as possible. … Demand for gas is strong, and large investors will focus more on Turkey,” he said.
Turkey eyes boosted role in energy sector with exchange market
Another critical topic discussed at Friday's conference was preparations to establish an energy exchange market in Turkey.
The energy exchange will cooperate with Bourse İstanbul and will aim at create transparency in the market while avoiding volatility in prices.
The exchange will initially deal with electricity markets. Mustafa Karahan, head of the Turkish Energy Trade Union (ETT), told Turkish press on Friday that they anticipate the planned energy exchange market to cement its role as a major energy transfer corridor for Western buyers while helping the country to emerge as a leading energy storage hub as well.
Birol told reporters that it is also critical for Turkey to boost its energy storage capacity and that the EPİAŞ project should be realized successfully to this end.