Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a televised speech in Istanbul, Turkey, on Aug. 21, 2020. Erdogan on Friday announced that his country, which is almost entirely reliant on imports to meet its energy needs, found significant natural gas resources in the Black Sea. (Xinhua)
ISTANBUL, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday announced that his country, which is almost entirely reliant on imports to meet its energy needs, found significant natural gas resources in the Black Sea.
"Our drilling ship has made a substantial natural gas discovery in the Black Sea," he said in a statement broadcasted live by news channels.
He indicated that a reserve as big as 320 billion cubic meters of natural gas in size was discovered and it would be available for use by 2023, the centennial of the Republic of Turkey.
"This is the largest ever gas discovery in Turkey's history," Erdogan said, noting that more reserves would be discovered in the near future.
Turkey has been exploring for energy resources in the Black Sea for years. The hydrocarbon find comes from the region called Tuna 1, in an undisputed area in the crossroads between Bulgarian and Romanian maritime borders within the inland waters of Turkey.
Erdogan had promised on Wednesday to deliver the "good news" on Friday that would "usher in a new era" for the nation, fueling speculations.
Whether this important reserve will be feasible to extract it remains to be seen, according to observers. However, Turkey's annual energy bill totals around 40 billion U.S. dollars, and such a find would really help the nation's vulnerable economy.
Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak described the discovery as marking "an axis shift" in Turkey.
"With this discovery, our current account deficit, caused largely by our energy imports, will significantly be reduced, and we will eventually move towards a surplus," Albayrak said after Erdogan's remarks.
Turkey buys most of its natural gas through pipelines from Russia, Iran, and Azerbaijan, in addition to some liquid natural gas (LNG) imports, mostly from Qatar and the United States.
"This is a very important discovery and doesn't come as a surprise, as we were waiting for such a piece of good news for some time," Gurkan Kumbaroglu, an energy expert and head of the Energy Economy Association, told private NTV broadcaster.
"We think that the gas from this field can begin to be extracted in about two or three years and become an economic reality," remarked this scholar from Istanbul's Bogazici University.
He added the reserves could potentially meet Turkey's energy needs for at least seven years.
In recent months, also with the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Turkish economy has come under mounting pressure as depleted central bank's reserves caused the national currency to plunge against the greenback and the euro.
The lira has lost around 20 percent of its value so far this year.
The Turkish discovery comes amid territorial disputes with Greece and Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey is also actively searching for oil and gas in contested waters.
France has temporarily increased its military presence to ward off Turkish steps, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday said the European Union was concerned over the increased tensions.
Ankara resumed its search in the Mediterranean waters last week after German-mediated negotiations with Greece collapsed when Athens announced a maritime agreement with Egypt, in retaliation for a similar deal between Turkey and Libya.
Erdogan insisted on Friday the European pressure wouldn't make him change direction. Enditem