Turkey is bucking the trend by intensifying its offshore gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea at a time when leading energy companies have suspended their operations until next year due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, state-run TRT World said.
Energy giants ExxonMobil, Total, and ENI have halted their operations during the coronavirus pandemic. Total and ENI’s suspensions will mostly last until mid-2021, with some operations on hold until 2022.
But Turkey is set to intensify gas exploration and drilling as it begins to ease its COVID-19 restrictions, TRT World said. Ankara recently dispatched two drilling vessels to the Mediterranean, and Turkey’s Fatih drilling vessel is due to begin operations in the Black Sea in July.
Demand for oil and other hydrocarbons, such as natural gas, has plummeted in recent months due to falling demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
But Mehmet Efe Biresselioğlu, head of the Sustainable Energy Division at the Izmir University of Economics, told Anadolu agency that Turkey could emerge from the energy crisis in a better position than others.
“Turkey has followed a similar path and developed appropriate policies through bilateral cooperation and has achieved important gains in this region,” he said. “If Turkey can get through this crisis with the least possible shortfalls, its advantageous position could be strengthened even more.”
The Cypriot government on April 21 called Turkey’s deployment of a survey vessel to drill for hydrocarbons near the island an “act of piracy” and a breach of its rights. Greece also released a statement criticising Turkey’s recent moves.
Cyprus has been split between a Greek Cypriot administration in the south, recognised internationally as the government of the whole island, and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot government in the north recognised only by Turkey.
Turkey has asserted its right to drill in areas in the west of the divided island, in spite of protests from the Greek Cypriot and its allies. Some of the areas explored by Turkish vessels lie in the Cypriot state’s claimed exclusive economic zone, which has stoked increased tensions between Ankara and Athens.