Baku, Azerbaijan, Dec. 22
By Umid Niayesh- Trend:
Israel's gas export to Turkey is a realistic plan, however Tel Aviv cannot replace the Russian gas in Turkey's market, at least at the short term, an energy expert, Micha'el Tanchum told Trend.
Tanchum, who is a non-resident senior fellow at the Global Energy Center and the Eurasian Energy Futures Initiative at the Atlantic Council, believes that Israeli natural gas exports via an undersea pipeline is commercially viable and makes economic sense for both Turkey and Israel.
Geopolitically, the return to strategic cooperation between the two countries is beneficial to the national interests of each, the expert said, adding the recent diplomatic breakthrough thus has a sound economic and foreign policy basis.
Talking about the possible obstacles of laying a pipeline from Israel to Turkey considering the geographic and political conditions in the region, Tanchum said that the only significant obstacle is the Cyprus issue, as any pipeline would have to cross the claimed economic exclusion zone of the Republic of Cyprus.
"However, there are positive signs about significant progress towards a resolution of the Cyprus problem. Again, the economic and geopolitical interests align," he added.
There is a strong possibility, perhaps better than any time in the past, the two sides will reach a mutual accommodation in 2016 that may allow for the construction of an undersea pipeline, according to Tanchum.
Commenting on the volume of Israel's gas export to Turkey, he said various proposals for the undersea pipeline call for Israel initially to export 8-10 billion cubic meters annually.
"This volume is equivalent to about 17-20 percent of Turkey's 2014 natural gas imports.
Thus, natural gas imports from Israel would represent a significant diversification of Turkey's natural gas supply mix."
The expert further said that to put it in perspective, the proposed initial export volume of Israeli gas is equivalent to 29-37 percent of the total volume that Turkey imported from Russia in 2014.
Of course, by the time Israeli gas would enter the Turkish system, Turkey's overall consumption will be higher but there is the potential for more Israeli gas to be transported to Turkey, Tanchum said.
"We actually do not know how much natural gas there is in the eastern Mediterranean basin as there has not been sufficient exploration," he said, adding the 2015 discovery by ENI of the massive Zohr gas field off Egypt's coast is a potent reminder of this.
Once Turkey and Israel agree to a supply contract, it would be possible to obtain financing for further exploration. And, such exploration could result in another significant gas find in the region, the expert underlined.
After the deterioration of relations between Moscow and Ankara due to the downed Russian SU-24 bomber, Turkey and Israel are taking steps to restore their bilateral relations.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized the possibility of supplying Israeli gas to Turkey and said this factor can "change the relations between the two countries."
Israel's gas reserve total a trillion cubic meters, according to various estimations. The Leviathan field accounts for as much as 620 billion cubic meters of this volume, 303 billion cubic meters - from the Tamar field and 58 billion cubic meters - from two smaller fields adjacent fields.
Umid Niayesh is Trend Agency's staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @UmidNiayesh