The Overlooked ‘New’ Energy Geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean

The “Eastern Mediterranean Energy Summit”, organized in cooperation with two important civil society organizations of the TRNC (ASEME DS and TÜMBİFED), was held in Lefkoşa in late January 2024 with the contributions of distinguished experts from different disciplines. The rising sense of hope from the TRNCtowards the strategic Eastern Mediterranean region and the energy field, where Türkiye’s activities have visibly stagnated in recent years, was also encouraging for us, the invited speakers. The President of the TRNC, Mr. Ersin Tatar, and the TRNC Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu, also attended the Summit and delivered visionary speeches.

In this column (Bütün Dünya, monthly publication of Başkent University), I often write about the geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean and try to provide updates. I do not believe that the vital strategic importance of the Eastern Mediterranean for both Türkiye and the TRNC has been sufficiently grasped. Therefore, with the patience of our readers, I will try to share with you a summary of my presentation within the limited time frame of the Summit.

In my presentations, I take care to take into account the most recent data of the energy world and to base the discussion or my views on these scientific data. I tried to follow the same approach at the Summit.

Share of Energy Resources in the World Energy Mix and the Geographical Distribution of Reserves

By the end of 2022, 31.6% of the world’s primary energy consumption (14.42 billion tons of oil equivalent) was met by oil, 26.7% by coal and 23.5% by natural gas. Nuclear power accounts for 4%, hydroelectricity 6.7% and renewables 7.5%. A global energy system dominated by fossil resources continues to dominate.

Oil and natural gas are not just sources of energy/electricity. Both are indispensable feedstocks for hundreds of industrial products. Therefore, they will continue to be vital resources for the global economy not only today but also in the decades to come. To give you an idea, let us give some interesting examples of some of the industrial products in which oil is a feedstock:

Aspirin, balloons, bandages, bandages, candles, candlesticks, CD players, candles, candles wax, computers, storage containers, plastic, crayons, credit cards, digital watches, fertilizer, soccer balls, glue, golf balls, hair dryers, eye glasses, paint, ink, insecticides, life vest, lipstick, mascara, vaseline, perfume, luggage, roller skates, roofing materials, photographic film, keys, shampoo, shaving cream, contact lenses, surfboard, telephone, toothpaste, toys, umbrella, etc…1

The main expectation or goal of the “Energy Transition” process, which is on the agenda for a more sustainable world and energy supply, is to reduce the share of fossil fuels in the energy mix and increase the share of renewable resources while increasing the energy efficiency of the global energy system. This is true. However, evidence that this “expectation” is partly exaggerated in some publications and that it will not be realizedtomorrow is the fact that oil and natural gas, in particular, are important inputs to the products listed above. If we look at the scenarios (projections) of the “World Energy Outlook 2023” report2 (published annually) by the International Energy Agency, the most radical reduction in the share of fossil fuels will be realized in coal while oil and gas are expected almost to maintain their current shares with minor declines

The major hydrocarbon discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean in recent years have been natural gas-dominated discoveries. This data is important because these discoveries and the role of the Eastern Mediterranean are of strategic importance in terms of world energy demand, given that the share of natural gaswill fall from 23% in 2022 to 20% in 2050 (i.e. not a dramatic decline) and that its strategic importance both in energy and in the production of industrial products (and fertilizers) will not diminish significantly. Moreover, natural gas is considered to be the most efficient (base) source with relatively low emissions among fossilfuels and a transitional source of energy transition.

Therefore, considering the projections for the coming decades and the fact that the Eastern Mediterranean has been the scene of significant discoveries in recent years, the strategic importance of this region for Türkiye andthe TRNC becomes apparent. Undoubtedly, the strategic importance of the Eastern Mediterranean is not limited to the natural riches it harbors (discovered or potential resources to date). For this reason, all of us, and especially those who are in a position or claim to govern the country, have the responsibility and obligation to fully grasp this value of the region and to jealously guard our interests. This obligation requires protecting not only the rights of those living today but also those of future generations with care and responsibility with a scientific approach.

Notes on the (Increasing) Importance of the Seas in General and the Eastern White Sea in particular in terms of Energy Geopolitics

According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), 80% by volume and 70% by value of annual international trade (11 billion tons) is transported via sea routes, (2021).


In 2022, 66% of Türkiye’s imports and 60% of its exports were realized by sea. The Eastern Mediterranean is the most important and strategic entry-exit geography of this vital trade.

The Eastern Mediterranean is the gateway of Middle Eastern oil and gas to the Red Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the Aegean Sea, the Black Sea, Europe and the Atlantic. It is also the route for bi- directional (north to south and south to north) hydrocarbon transportation (hydrocarbon exports from Africa, Russia, Türkiye and the US).

Eastern Mediterranean Hydrocarbon Potential

The Eastern Mediterranean holds 8.1 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, 2.2 billion barrels of natural gas liquids, and 879 million barrels of oil (according to the USGS3), which have yet to be discovered. Including those discovered to date, the sum of proven natural gas reserves and potential natural gas resources is around 10 trillion cubic meters. This is about 5% of the world’s proven natural gas reserves (206.7 trillion cubic meters). While this resource is not very ambitious on a global scale, it is a very serious potential for regional energy security.

Another important potential in the Eastern Mediterranean is the gas hydrate resources, which are estimated to be in large quantities. Gas hydrates, in addition to being an indicator pointing to the existence of oil and natural gas deposits, are also an energy source which, depending on its ability to be converted into natural gas, is 164 times more valuable than a unit of its own.4 In simpler terms, one cubic meter of gas hydrate yields 164 cubic meters of methane + 0.8 cubic meters of water. According to Prof. Günay Çifçi, there is an estimate that there is at least 98.16 standard trillion m3 of methane in the Eastern Mediterranean.5 Undoubtedly, this is a very ambitious and speculative volume and should be confirmed by additional comprehensive surveys by earth scientists (including 3D seismic).

As we have pointed out in our previous articles, it is a very shallow approach to evaluate the “Energy Geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean” solely on the basis of the existence of discovered and/or potential hydrocarbons. This region is one of the most critical and therefore vital routes for the transportation of crude oil, petroleum products and liquefied natural gas, or more simply, for the import and export of crude oil, petroleum products and liquefied natural gas.

In 2022, the total volume of crude oil trade was 2.1 billion tons and the volume of petroleum products trade was 1.25 billion tons. As the source region for crude oil exports, the Middle East accounted for 43% of total exports, while Russia accounted for 12%. On the import side, Asia Pacific


countries accounted for 60% of total global crude oil imports. Three countries (China, India and Japan) accounted for 75% of this total. European countries accounted for 24% of total crude oil imports. In 2022, the volume of trade in petroleum products amounted to 1.25 billion tons. While Middle Eastern countries and the United States (45% of the total) were the leading exporters, Asia Pacific was also the leading importer,accounting for 40% of total imports. The Asia Pacific region was followed by Europe (with a lower share of 60%). (To be continued…)

Next article: The Growing Strategic Importance of the (Maritime) Eastern Mediterranean in Energy Trade and Transportation and the Blue Economy Ocean Energy

  • Energy 4 me; Society of Petroleum Engineers
  • World Energy Outlook 2023, International Energy Agency (Announced Policies Scenario)
  • USGS: United States Geological Survey, end of 2021 report
  • Gas Hydrates: The Energy Source of the Near Future; Prof. Günay Çifçi, BRIQ Volume 2 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021
  • Merey, Ş. & Longinos, N. (2019). The gas hydrate potential of the Eastern Mediterranean basin.

Bulletin of the Mineral Research and Exploration Institute, 160, 117-134

Necdet Pamir

Necdet Pamir worked at Türkiye Petrolleri Anonim Ortaklığı for 25 years, holding positions from engineer to project manager. He also served as the Group Manager for Petroleum Transportation and Marketing and was an Assistant General Manager from 1995 to 1996. He represented TPAO at the Prime Ministry Pipeline Coordination Board during this time. Pamir has published numerous articles, interviews, and books in both Turkish and English and has been a speaker at various conferences. He is a member of the Turkish National Committee of the World Energy Council and held roles within the Republican People’s Party (CHP) from 2002 to 2005. Currently, he is the General Coordinator at the Eurasian Strategic Research Center (ASAM).

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