The invasion of Russia in Ukraine has shown the dependency of Europe on Russian energy imports, especially gas. Consequently, European actors have begun a new, serious search for various energy suppliers.
Within this context, the European Union (EU) has signed a new treaty with Israel, to replace the gas imports from Russia. However, it is not possible for Israeli gas to reach Europe from another way than Türkiye, in less than five years. Likewise, Egypt is exporting gas to Europe. Though, both states need at least few years to decrease the pressure on the EU. Therefore, neither Egyptian gas nor Israeli gas can be a solution EU’s demand. The nuclear negotiations with Iran have not settled to a consequence yet either. The newly discovered gas fields in East Mediterranean, therefore East-Med Project, shapes through conflicted regions. Right in this situation, it is important to state that the EU has no other choice than the Southern Gas Corridor. The fastest solution is to diversify the Southern Gas Corridor with other gas resources of states of the Middle Corridor and provide gas to Europe by using existing gas pipelines, for fewer cost.
This situation increases the importance of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. In this context, the Trans-Caspian Natural Gas Pipeline Project (TANAP), which is the gas element of the concept, which was developed in 1990 as the East-West Energy Corridor, may be predicted to become an active part of the Southern Gas Corridor for the transport of Turkmen gas to the West.
According to data of the British Petroleum (BP), Turkmenistan is the fourth state with the biggest gas reserves, right after Russia (38 tcm), Iran (32 tcm) and Qatar (25 tcm); in territory (Devletabad, Osman, Yolatan) and in sea (Celeken), according to newly found data, with 20 tcm proven gas reserve. Closely 10% of the worlds proven gas reserves are in Turkmenistan.
Because of its geolocation, Turkmenistan exports its gas to Russia, mainly to provide the gas demand of the North, Iran, and China, through pipelines that been built during Soviet Union era. However, the North Stream I Pipeline cut of Russia to Europe caused a two-way effect.
First of them is the increase of Moscow’s gas import to China, as a part of market diversification strategy; and therefore, decrease of the impact of Turkmenistan’s influence over China.
Second is the clarity that the Europe needs new suppliers. Thus, the addition of Turkmenistan to TANAP is considered as a serious option. Moreover, the addition of Uzbekistan to TANAP may come up as well. The infrastructure steps in the context of the Middle Corridor have been undertaken recently as a suitable basis for this.
About the aspect of Turkmenistan, it can be said that the solution of the conflict between Ashgabat and Baku’s jurisdiction over Caspian Sea in 2018, is an important opportunity over the solution of global energy crisis. Both states have decided to re-name the conflicted region as “fellowship field” and to cooperate the activities carried in the region. The 8-10 billion metre cubic of Turkmen gas reserves could be transported to Europe was also discussed in the negotiations. Although the EU’s gas deal with Azerbaijan is important in the diversification of Western suppliers, production in Azerbaijan is not yet expected before 2030, which can meet the EU’s needs. In this context, the support of Azerbaijan gas with Turkmenistan gas is the most reasonable solution. Recent developments suggest that the EU is in a search for this direction.
In this context, time may be saved initially with a capacity of 10–15-billion-meter cubes, and after the price of steel has dropped, a new investment and a new pipeline can also be discussed. This could make the Middle Corridor the main route to the global energy trade. In the aspect of Azerbaijan, Baku may become an energy centre, both as a source state and a route state, with such developments.
It is important to note that 22 trillion cubic meters of gas reserves can be reached when the sources of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are combined. If these conditions are evaluated, the Central Corridor may become a gas transport project from Central Asia to Europe. In this regard, the ideal route for the EU is the Middle Corridor. Because of its critical role Europe takes, will take in energy security, the key actor of the process will be Azerbaijan.