Turkey eyes higher pipeline revenues; considers tanker sanctions

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, May 26 -- The Turkish government, taking up an earlier idea proposed by Russia, is considering legislation aimed at applying heavy sanctions on oil companies in the event of tanker accidents in the congested Bosporus Strait.

Ankara is using the proposed legislation as part of an effort to divert tanker traffic away from the Bosporus and promote use of oil pipelines instead. Ankara is said to be discussing the legislation with Chevron Corp., ExxonMobil Corp., BP PLC, Total SA, and Eni SPA.

Earlier this month, Russia’s Izvestia newspaper reported that Moscow also had proposed clearing Turkey’s Black Sea straits of oil tankers and transporting oil via two pipelines, now under construction.

Izvestia said the idea is to “clear the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits, which serve as the boundary between Europe and Asia, and send oil via the Russia-backed Burgas-Alexandroupolis and the Turkish Samsun-Ceyhan oil pipelines.”

The Burgas–Alexandrupolis line will transport Russian oil from Bulgaria’s Black Sea port of Burgas to Greece’s port of Alexandrupolis. Transneft and Russian oil majors Gazprom Neft and Rosneft jointly hold 51% in the project.

The Samsun–Ceyhan line is expected to link the Black Sea port of Samsun with the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, both in Turkey. Transneft and Rosneft are expected to hold stakes in the line.

Transneft also has suggested that the straits be used only to ship petroleum products while crude can be carried along the two pipelines.

Changed approach
According to analyst IHS Global Insight, Russia formerly opposed Turkish wishes to divert oil from the straits but has changed its approach.

Now, the analyst says, Russia wants to “divert crude oil shipments from exiting the Black Sea via the Bosporus while angling to control the pipelines from which this oil is exported.”

In March, Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yildiz said his country needs the Samsun-Ceyhan oil pipeline that will extend across its territory to ease the traffic-clogged straits of Bosporus and Dardanelles.

“We are interested in the issues related to the transportation of Russian and Kazakh oil across the pipeline,” said Yildiz. “It is important for us that the oil is pumped across the pipeline and the traffic congestion in straits is eased.”

Yildiz’s remarks followed earlier observations by Transneft Vice-Pres. Mikhail Barkhov, who said the Samsun–Ceyhan and Burgas–Alexandrupolis oil line projects could become profitable if Turkey restricted the tonnage of tankers passing through the straits to 60,000 tonnes.

In early May, Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev and Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, eyeing the Middle Eastern country as a strategic energy hub, signed several agreements, including one on nuclear energy and another on the proposed Samsun-Ceyhan pipeline.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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