In a moment of geopolitical uncertainties, fluid changes on an international level, and increase fo-cus on terroristic threats, this article wants to discuss the possible risks for energy infrastructure and examine how grave they are. Speaking with representative of the industry, think tanks, and academia, we try to shed special light on the infrastructures in Turkey and in the nearby region.
The security of energy infrastructure is a two-sided story, where the standard European scenario seems quite distant from the case of countries like Turkey, and Ukraine. While in the EU gas and oil pipelines don’t seem under threat, experts see in more unstable regions a risk for gas and oil flows. But what’re the instruments to increase security of gas shipments through more problematic regions towards Europe? Are there any?
NORMAL CASE: ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURES ARE SAFE
“Also the most significant disruptions are normally repaired within the day,” an industry source said, mainly referring to the European gas pipeline network.
He also mentioned that European companies constantly carry out inspections and analyses of their gas pipeline through personnel on the ground and, in some cases, also helicopter missions, along with a coordinated control from their headquarters.
In this sense, the reality seems not that grim at the European level. Quite the opposite. European sources said that incidents, also the minor ones, are extremely rare.
“The percentage of incidents is risible. According to the most recent data available, the frequency of disruption was reported as 0.162 events a year every 1000 km,” the industry source explained.
The disruptions are reportedly caused by external interference, corrosion, materials’defects, constructions’shortfalls and erroneous land movements. The external interference –i.e. incidents - is considered the most common cause of disruptions in Europe.
TERRORISM AND INFRASTRUCTURES SECURITY: THE TURKISH CASE
At the same time, as said by Volkan Özdemir, Chairman of the Turkey-based Institute for Energy Markets and Policies (EPPEN), repercussions of incidents can be significant.
“Any disruption would have ramifications over the economy, the security and so also foreign policy,”Özdemir explained in an emailed declaration, referring mainly to the Turkish case.
The point made by the Ankara/Brussels-based expert is that terroristic attacks can be the result of diplomatic frictions leveraging on current geopolitical complexities. Some countries, especially the ones in more unstable regions, might be the first one to pay the price.
“In order to harm others, proxies can and are deployed. In order to undermine the lifetime of transportation corridors, terroristic attacks can be part of it,”Özdemir continued, adding that attacks might bring additional confrontation and deterioration of bilateral relations in the region.
In other words, internal safety measures and possibly military confrontations might become more common as a consequence of attacks to energy infrastructures. This poses an implicit risk for new infrastructures.
“There’re huge opportunities for big powers to use these proxies and terroristic groups in line with their general strategy. That’s why I think that these new projects are at risk.”
In this sense, as repeated by several experts, the main risks are for infrastructures in Turkey, Ukraine, and - to a lesser degree - Southeast Europe.
TURKISH CASE: POSSIBLE OUTCOMES?
The country could be soon a major energy corridor and possibly even a gas hub. At the same time, the region’s upheaval remains a significant hurdle to the achievement of this goal.
“Last year PKK militants attacked the Baku-Erzurum natural gas pipeline, which is at parallel route with TANAP. Even more recently, in February, PKK attacked the Kırkuk-Ceyhan crude oil Pipeline…. PKK has been used as a proxy to target critical energy infrastructure in Turkey,”he said speaking about the Kırkuk-Ceyhan pipeline going from northern Iraq, which is now controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government, to Turkey.
As other Turkish experts, Özdemir asked Europe to throw its weight behind Ankara in the Kurdish case, with an explicit support to the Turkish army.
“Caspian and Middle East resources will pass through Turkey, and this will depend on Europe’s intention to support Turkey against PKK terrorism. If PKK carries out a terroristic attack to critical infrastructure, this attack is against Turkish and European energy security too. Those are European assets too”Özdemir conceded, adding that Europe should not support PKK’s cause.
The Chairman of the Turkey-based Institute for Energy Markets and Policies said that, when PKK attacked Kirkuk-Ceyhan, both Turkey and the Kurdish region of Iraq suffered.
The EU-Turkey joint action plan on refugees seems to be the guarantor of a more united European voice in favour of the Turkish case, but different readings of the Turkish political decisions might easily emerge in case of political instability in the EU or Turkey. The Kurdish issue could logically be an additional source of uncertainties - almost 50% of the 30 million Kurds live in Turkish territory, with the rest between Iran (8.1 million), Iraq (5.5 million) and Syria (1.7 million).
Against this backdrop, unclear positions of European governments and internal differences within Kurdish groups make it even more difficult to assess the situation.
“PKK’s activities in Europe are not forbidden and this group governs approximately 1 billion dollars of financial instruments annually. Europe should take an action. There are also countries explicitly supporting PKK’s sister organisation (PYD) in Syria in the fight against ISIS. This is true for United States and now Russia too. Yes, ISIS is a very big security threat to Turkey and region but during the struggle against it, the point is that PKK can easily transfer this war material from Syria to Turkey in order to destabilise the country and critical energy infrastructure which in turn would have negative ramifications for Europe as well.”
EU’S TIES WITH TURKEY: COORDINATION INSTRUMENTS
Apart from the thorny and complicated Kurdish case, Europe and Turkey have several interests in common, and these ties require coordination.
“For what concerns infrastructure security, there’s a big convergence of interests between Turkey and Europe,”Özdemir commented, adding that Turkey should also work more with Ukraine to develop common energy strategies.
But how to promote new ties between Ankara and Brussels?
New commercial projects with European companies and institutional cooperation could be possible options to trigger further convergence, the Turkish expert argued.
For instance, Özdemir explained that a new system of reporting, and the modernisation of network codes could be a first step to increase cooperation between Turkey and the European Union in the energy sector. The private sector has a role too.
“Even new companies could be established between Turkish gas and electricity operators and private European companies to handle this convergence to similar and higher standards of cooperation. The activities of this company could be outsourced to private companies holding the kind of technology that is required for this purpose. We need more cooperation that will enable to deal with digital and physical security, as well as with market security. That implies allowing Turkish companies to make investments in Europe and European companies to make investments in Turkey to improve energy networks”Özdemir presented.
At the same time, big companies are not that prone to invest in “politically unviable regions”, especially when it comes down to sophisticated technologies. And here the regulatory framework kicks in.
“Modernised and transparent network codes that regulate the transportation should be established and integrated into each other. This is part of a broader concept of virtual security. Secure and contemporary software should be uploaded and the collaboration between companies at first is in their interests. In this sense, harmonisation is needed.”
EU’S ENERGY TIES WITH TURKEY - STORAGE FACILITIES ARE MAJOR OPTION/ ISSUE
Storage facilities should have a special place in this security equation. They are so relevant because they would provide immediate relief in case of gas flow disruptions.
“Although there are currently six storage licenses in force, Turkey has only four storage facilities. One is TPAO Silivri, other two are LNG storage tanks in M.Eregli and Aliaga. The fourth one is under construction and will not become active before end of 2017. Turkey has 2.6 bcm underground storage capacity and 535 million cubic meter LNG storage capacity. Similar to import companies, there are storage related requirements on wholesale companies. As current storage capacity is insufficient, EMRA (the national regulator agency) does not strictly monitor performance of storage related obligations and, in practice, does not impose penalties due to non-performance of storage related obligations,” said Gokce Mete, Research Fellow at Centre for Energy, Petroleum, Mineral Law and Policy.
The Scotland-based researcher explained that the two storage facilities under constructions in Tarsus/Mersin are both underground, and that new ones would be more likely in case Turkey moved closer to the EU.
“If the Energy Chapter opens and Turkey’s accession succeeds, it could also have access to EU infrastructure funds, could propose PCI (projects of common interest), for instance for its storage facilities. Another security related advantage would be Turkey’s participation in ACER/ENTSOs –in particular from a transparency perspective, the flows through TAP/TANAP could be observed daily (from Turkish border with Georgia to Greece),”Mete commented.
In general, the message here is that, if Turkey wants to increase its energy clout in Europe, a stronger cooperation with organisations like ENTSO-E and ENTSO-G is required. Such a joint effort would allow to come up with common protocols to manage crisis. Logically, initiatives like ENTSO-E and ENTSO-G could also become the umbrellas under which discussion on digital network codes could take place.
CONCLUSIONS - TURKEY’S STABILITY, AND TURKEY’S ROLE
Ankara requires new investments in the energy field, and this is a necessary condition for Turkey to become a gas hub, but it remains unclear which the investors could be, and whether TAP shareholders might chip in for infrastructures in Turkey.
What’s sure though is that, as things stand now, Turkey is at a crossroads. High ambitions do indeed require strong plan, and (possibly) political stability. Brussels could support Ankara’s energy ambitions, knowing the country is interested in keeping stable transits, but Turkey remains the one with the most urging problems to solve. Europe can find alternatives to energy transiting Turkey, but Ankara might not easily find an alternative end market for energy flows entering its borders. Internal politics will play a major role here.
Sergio Matalucci, Journalist