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As Iran Sanctions Near, Turkey Scrambles for New Energy Sources

What a difference international sanctions and intense US pressure make.

Turkey in March imported more than 270,000 barrels per day of crude oil from Iran, nearly triple the previous month’s 100,000 barrels, or 401,349 tons, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute.

And now? Though Turkey was one of several countries to receive a temporary waiver from U.S. sanctions against Iran, it is scrambling to make up the looming energy deficit.

Istanbul's Arasta Bazaar
Maremagnum | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images
Istanbul's Arasta Bazaar

Turkey has begun talks with Saudi Arabia to make up any shortfalls caused by obeying the sanctions and recently signed a one-million ton oil supply deal with Libya.

But in trading out Iran for Libya and Saudi Arabia, Turkey has swapped relative political stability for uncertainty. Whatever one thinks of the mullahcracy ruling Iran, it has been in power since 1979. Post-Gaddafi Libya is hardly a stable state as yet. There are rising tensions between the eastern part of the country, which controls much of the nation’s oil output, and authorities in Tripoli.

And the recent death of Saudi Crown Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz at 78 years old may herald a period of instability for the nation. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz is 88 years old, and has now outlived two appointed successors from among the elderly group of sons of Saudi's founding monarch, King Abdul-Aziz.

Turkey, which for the past decade has imported 93 percent of the oil and 98 percent of the natural gas it consumes, is pursuing other regional sources of energy.

Azerbaijan's state oil company, Socar, recently indicated the nation would proceed with the Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline, Tanap, construction project, which could boost Azeri investments in Turkey to more than $17 billion.

Turkey and Azerbaijan last year signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the consortium that will build the 1,240-mile long pipeline that would supply natural gas from Azerbaijan’s offshore Caspian Shah Deniz natural gas fields westwards through Turkey to Europe.

Another possible regional option is Iraq, where Turkey is exploring oil export deals with the Kurdish Regional Government, despite the fact that the outlawed separatist Marxist Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (Kurdistan Workers' Party, PKK) has been battling the Turkish government from bases there since 1984.

Turkey’s energy plans also include nuclear energy. Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz recently said the country is determined to have nuclear power plants," and wants to build at least 23 of them by 2023.

The crown piece of that plan is the country's first nuclear power plant in Akkuyu — on Turkey's southern Mediterranean coast — which Yildiz said is moving forward despite public opposition. Engineering surveys are due to completed by the end of this year.

Four reactors are planned for Akkuyu under a 2010 agreement between the governments of Russia and Turkey, and are expected come online in 2019–22.

In the wake of the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan, some analysts question the wisdom of situating a nuclear plant in a region subject to earthquakes

On 27 June 1998, a major earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale occurred in nearby Adana; it damaged 74,300 buildings, killed 150, injured 1,000 and caused damage estimated at $1 billion. Research has determined that an active fault line, the Ecemis, runs close to the Akkuyu plant site.

—This story originally appeared on Oilprice.com.

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