Turkey turns away from Russian gas

The 7-billion-euro Turkish Stream pipeline appears to be going to share the sad fate of Nord Stream 2.

Amid the economic crisis and cooling relations with Moscow, which lead to confrontation of the Turkish and Russian military in Syria and mercenaries of the Wagner Private Military Company in Libya, Turkey is sharply reducing the purchases of Russian gas.

At the end of March, Gazprom's supplies to Turkish state-owned Botas and independent Turkish operators collapsed sevenfold, to 210 million cubic meters, according to data released on Tuesday by the Russian Federal Customs Service.

Compared to 2018, the drop was more than 14 times: then in the first quarter Turkey purchased 8.8 billion cubic meters (2.93 billion on average per month).

Once Gazprom's second-largest customer, Turkey rolled back into the second decade, buying almost as much gas as Armenia (193 million cubic meters) and less than Lithuania (272 million).

Turkey is replacimng Russian gas with liquefied natural gas. As S&P Global Platts notes, in December last year the state-owned Botas held a tender for the purchase of 30 LNG shipments with delivery until March 2020, and a month earlier - for another 70 shipments in 2020-23.

At the end of last year, Turkey increased LNG imports by 13% to 9.1 million tons. The largest suppliers were Algeria (4.3 million tons), Qatar (1.8 million), Nigeria (1.8 million) and the United States.

Gazprom's supply to the Turkish market collapsed by 35% last year, to 15 billion cubic meters - the lowest in more than 10 years. As a result, TurkStream and Blue Stream with a total capacity of 35 billion cubic meters remained half empty. In March, the capacity of two gas pipelines (2.9 billion cubic meters per month) was used by less than 10%.

Turkey plans to increase LNG purchases on the spot market, a source in the country's energy industry told Reuters. He said that, because of this, the was a subsequent decision to increase the time of maintenance work on the "Blue Stream" in May.

Private Turkish gas importers with open contracts with Gazprom until 2035-42 have been violating the take-or-pay condition for about two years by purchasing less than the agreed amount, S&P Global Platts said.

The contract with the state-owned Botas for 8 billion cubic meters per year expires in 2021, and Ankara intends to seek price concessions from Gazprom. "The availability of cheap LNG and falling demand send a signal to our pipeline suppliers that they need to show flexibility," Turkish Deputy Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar said on May 16.

Gazprom is preparing for further deterioration of the situation in the Turkish market. "The loss in the second quarter will be even deeper," a company source told Reuters.

He added that the total drop in gas supplies to Europe reached 19.2% in the first quarter. According to the Russian Federal Customs Service, Germany reduced purchases by 45% (2.67 billion cubic meters), Austria - by 25% (820 million cubic meters).

  TurkStream, Turkey, Russia