Turkey will initially be the largest consumer of natural gas exported through the pipeline planned from Turkmenistan, Hayrettin Uzun, the head of Turkey’s pipeline and gas agency Botas, said in an interview with MEED on 22 September.

Uzun acknowledged that the Turkmen government eventually wants to reach European markets. ‘But who will pay the money? If you make such plans, then you have to take them step by step,’ he said. Demand in Europe at present does not justify the expense of building the line all the way to Vienna. ‘Now Europe doesn’t need Turkmen gas, but maybe after 2005 it will need additional supplies,’ he added.

The first stage of the pipeline will be laid through Iran to the border town of Dogubeyazit. Afterwards a section will be built to Ankara where the gas will be fed into the domestic transmission system.

Ankara is already the terminus of a trunk pipeline built in the 1980s to import Siberian natural gas from the Bulgarian border. Work is under way to build spurs from the trunkline to Cannakkale on the Dardanelles straits, and to Eregli on the Black Sea. A further link is planned to Izmir.

Uzun said that Botas recently joined a construction consortium, led by former US secretary of state Alexander Haig, which is trying to find international financing for the Turkmen and Iranian sections of the pipeline. The section up to Ankara will be financed within Turkey. The other members of the consortium are the US’ Coastal Corporation and Argentina’s Bridas, which is involved in hydrocarbons exploitation in Turkmenistan.

Turkey will not be solely dependent on Turkmen gas, however. More Siberian gas will be imported from Russia, which has agreed to provide 5,000 million cubic metres a year by 1996 in addition to the 6,000 metres a year already contracted for under an agreement reached in the mid-1980s. Botas is also talking with Russia’s Gazprom about the formation of a joint-venture company to sell Siberian gas in Turkey, said Uzun (see table).