Turkey has raised the estimated reserves in a gas field off its Black Sea coast to 405 billion cubic metres after finding an additional 85 billion cubic metres, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
Erdogan said in August the field contained 320 billion cubic metres of gas, making it Turkey’s biggest natural gas discovery.
The Fatih drill ship made the discovery about 100 nautical miles north of the Turkish coast.
Even before Saturday’s revision, analysts had said the find represents a major discovery and was one of the largest global discoveries in 2020.
“Work in this borehole has been completed after reaching a depth of 4,775 metres as planned previously,” Erdogan said, speaking on board the Fatih on Saturday.
He said the vessel would start new operations in a different borehole in the same field, called Sakarya, next month after returning to port for maintenance. Another ship, called Kanuni, is also headed to the Black Sea for drilling operations, he said.
If the gas can be commercially extracted, the discovery could transform Turkey’s dependence on Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan for energy imports. Last year’s imports totalled more than $41bn.
Analysts have urged caution over the discovery’s significance, pointing out that deep-sea drilling is expensive and takes time.
Turkey expects the first gas flow from the field in 2023. One source close to the matter said an annual gas flow of 15 billion cubic metres was envisaged from 2025.
Ankara expects gas suppliers to offer more competitive pricing and flexibility if they want to renew long-term contracts totalling 16 billion cubic metres a year.
More than a quarter of Turkey’s long-term gas contracts expire next year, including imports via pipeline from Russia’s Gazprom and Azerbaijan’s SOCAR and a liquefied natural gas (LNG) deal with Nigeria.
Turkey has also been exploring for hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean, where its survey operations in disputed waters have drawn protests from Greece and Cyprus.
Greece and Cyprus pushed for a tougher response to Turkey’s natural gas exploration in contested waters at a European Union summit on Friday but were essentially told to hold off until a meeting in December.
This week, Turkey redeployed its survey ship, Oruc Reis, to disputed waters in an area among Greek islands, Cyprus and Turkey’s southern coast.
Turkey pulled the vessel to shore last month for maintenance and resupply, saying the move would give diplomacy a chance.
EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Friday unanimously condemned the decision as “provocative” and urged Ankara to reverse the move.
But Erdogan promised to push ahead with energy exploration.
“We will continue our search for hydrocarbon resources in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean,” Erdogan said.
He added the EU had become “captive” to Greece and Greek Cypriots in the dispute over natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean and this had damaged the bloc.
“If the EU does not hold an unbiased stance in existing disputes in the eastern Mediterranean, this situation will be the official declaration of the end of the European Union,” he said.