If Turkey develops the giant Tuna-1 (Danube-1) gas discovery, it could potentially save the country up to $21 billion in import costs, Rystad Energy estimates.

Rystad said
on Wednesday that this would depend on the field’s peak output, which remains
to be determined pending appraisal drilling and further testing.

savings could be even higher as global gas prices and import costs are expected
to rise in coming years.

The discovery is reported to have an initial gas reserve volume of approximately 320 bcm, but the size of its actual recoverable reserves is still uncertain.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during the presentation of the Tuna-1 discovery; Source: Presidential website Turkey Rystad Energy
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during the presentation of the Tuna-1 discovery; Source: Presidential website

As a result,
Rystad Energy’s calculations are based on a peak production range of between
2.5 bcm and 20 bcm per year. The lower end reflects a more cautious approach,
while the higher end a far more bullish outcome.

In any case,
the successful development of the field would represent a substantial reduction
to the country’s import costs – between $200 million and $1.5 billion per year
– based on the field’s breakeven price range and Turkey’s average gas import
price for 2020.

Sindre Knutsson, Rystad Energy’s VP for gas markets, said: “The timing of the discovery could hardly be better, as nearly 40 per cent of Turkey’s contracted import volumes – representing 24 Bcm out of the country’s 59 bcm per annum imports of pipeline gas and LNG – are set to expire in 2020 and 2021”.

A successful
development of the Tuna-1 discovery could offer Turkey significant natural gas
supplies at much more competitive terms, taking effect from the field’s
estimated startup date of 2028. Rystad Energy estimates the breakeven price for
the field to be between $3.00 and $3.50 per mmbtu, significantly below the cost
of imported gas.

Rystad Energy

Rystad Energy
estimates that the import price for LNG to Turkey in 2020 will average about
$4.70 per mmbtu, including both Brent index contracts and spot volumes. Another
estimate claims that the average price of Brent-indexed pipeline imports to
Turkey will be about $6.40 per mmbtu this year. The effect of weak Brent prices
this year will be seen in the second half of 2020, as Brent-indexed gas prices
are normally priced with a lag of three to six months.

The prospect
of a new competitive source of gas, and the confidence that Turkey will be less
reliant on imports in the future, will increase the country’s bargaining power concerning
its current suppliers.

buyers will likely be keen to move away from oil-indexed contracts and instead
use a European price benchmark, such as TTF, to which they can index their

Turkey’s natural gas demand is set to recover after seeing two consecutive
years with falling gas consumption. This development was driven primarily by
declining demand from the power sector, where gas been displaced by renewable
energy, including hydro, wind, and solar. Total natural gas demand declined to
44 bcm in 2019 after reaching a record of 52 bcm in 2017.

Energy forecasts that Turkish demand for gas will rebound to 59 bcm by 2030 and
71 bcm by 2040. The two main sectors contributing to this increase are the
industrial sector, driven by high economic growth, and the residential sector.
Industrial demand is forecast to reach 23 bcm by 2030, up from 14 bcm in 2019,
and residential demand is expected to climb from 13 bcm to 17 bcm over the same

Turkey is,
for all intents and purposes, entirely reliant on imports at present to meet
its natural gas demand, as domestic production stood at only about 0.3 bcm in
2019, thereby representing less than 1 per cent of domestic demand. The country
remains heavily dependent on pipeline imports of gas from Russia, Iran, and
Azerbaijan which collectively accounted for about 33 bcm or 73 per cent of
total imports in 2019.

The growth
in the LNG market has, however, allowed Turkey to diversify its supply sources,
opening the market to a long list of LNG exporting countries.

Nigeria, and Qatar all have long-term LNG contracts with Turkey, and the United
States has emerged as one of the largest suppliers of LNG to the country over
the past two years.

Cheap spot
prices in the LNG market have made flexible U.S. LNG cargoes attractive for
Turkey, replacing supplies from other traditional sources of pipeline gas such
as Russia and Iran, both of which have Brent-indexed long-term contracts with
the country.

Turkey’s newfound hope that low-cost discoveries are feasible will no doubt pave the way for further exploration programs. The government seems to have grasped the strategic importance of this breakthrough, as demonstrated by its decision to send no fewer than five warships to escort the seismic vessel Oruc Reis through the Mediterranean Sea”, Knutsson concludes.

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