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Highlights

Deputy energy minister calls for 'flexibility' from suppliers

Three long-term import contracts expire in 2021-2022

Talks with existing suppliers 'going very well': Bayraktar

Istanbul — Turkey is looking to the availability of cheap spot LNG to persuade long-term gas suppliers to lower their prices in ongoing contract renewal talks, deputy energy minister Alparslan Bayraktar said Thursday.

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Three of Turkey's gas import contracts -- for a total supply of 15.9 Bcm/year -- are set to expire over 2021-2022, and Bayraktar said talks for renewing those contracts were ongoing.

"The availability of cheap spot LNG and falling gas demand is a signal to our existing pipeline suppliers that they need to be flexible," Bayraktar said at a conference in Istanbul.

"The talks are going very well. We are enjoying the benefits of the cheap LNG," he said.

The contracts comprise: a 15-year contract with Azerbaijan for 6.6 Bcm/year that expires in April 2021; a 25-year contract with Nigeria for 1.3 Bcm/year of LNG; and a contract for 8 Bcm/year with Russia signed in 1998 that runs out at the end of 2021.

The third Russian contract was subject to a volume transfer tender that saw contracts for a total of 4 Bcm/year transferred to four Turkish companies: Avrasya Gaz (0.5 Bcm/year), Shell Enerji Turkey (0.25 Bcm/year), Bosphorus Gaz (0.75 Bcm/year) and Enerco (2.5 Bcm/year).

Those expire from February-December 2022, while the contract for the remaining 4 Bcm/year with Botas runs out in December 2021.

Bayraktar said the ongoing talks included discussions of the private sector contracts, but gave no further details.

The four private importers, together with three other companies holding import contracts for Russian gas that run until 2035-2042, are said to be in breach of their contracts with Gazprom, having failed to meet their take-or-pay agreements for most of the past two years.

'More flexible' role

Bayraktar said gas still had an important role to play in Turkey's energy mix but would have to play a "more flexible" role in the future.

He said Turkey's CCGT operators had suffered greatly over the past two years due to high contract gas prices, a problem which he said imports of cheap spot LNG was helping to address.

Faced with a stagnating economy and serious devaluation of the Turkish Lira over the past three years, the government has been aggressively pursuing a policy of promoting diversification away from imported gas to domestic resources for power generation.

Every percentage point increase in the level of power generation from renewables saves up to $100 million, Bayraktar said.

However, speaking to journalists later Thursday, he said that ultimately the extent to which Turkey will diversify away from imported gas will depend on the priced charged by the country's pipeline gas suppliers.

"Currently, the spot LNG price is lower than the European hub price," he said.

Botas late last year opened two tenders for the import of a total of 100 cargoes of LNG. In October, it opened a tender for 70 cargoes, to be delivered 2020-2023, which closed on November 8. And in December the company opened a second tender for 30 cargoes to be delivered from December to March.

The results of neither tender has been published.

Investment delay

Speaking to S&P Global Platts on the fringes of the conference, one industry source with knowledge of the subject said investment in new gas and gas-for-power infrastructure in Turkey was stalled due to uncertainty over future gas prices.

"Investors need to know what the market is going to do before making any investment decisions," he said, adding that last year's law change allowing for the import of spot gas volumes by pipeline could help the Turkish gas market become more flexible.

However, a lot still needed to be done before spot pipeline imports become a reality, the source said.

Spot imports could be made via the existing Trans-Balkan pipeline, currently unused following the commissioning of Russia's TurkStream pipeline last month, he said.

Previously, gas through the line was delivered at the Bulgaria-Turkey border by Gazprom. So, for transit of gas from Bulgaria to Turkey to go ahead, first an interconnection agreement would need to be concluded between Turkish transit operator Botas and its Bulgarian counterpart Bulgartransgaz.

This could be concluded by the second quarter, although that has yet to be officially confirmed, the source said.

Regarding the Blue Stream pipeline from Russia and Turkey's gas import lines from Azerbaijan and Iran, the source said sufficient excess capacity existed in all three lines to allow spot imports, but pointed out that regulations give priority to the existing long-term imports contracts held by Botas, and that no regulations or guidelines have yet been drawn up to govern how spot imports would be managed.