For years, Turkey has been growing in importance for Europe when it comes to the delivery of oil and natural gas. In light of the Ukraine crisis, the West is hoping the country can become an additional energy supplier.
Turkey's proximity to the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe makes the country an ideal center for energy distribution. Since the outbreak of the current political crisis in Ukraine, the country has come to the top of the list of strategic partners for Europe when it comes to importing oil and natural gas.
"We're observing increasing interest from European and international companies, particularly for the Turkish energy market," said Christian Grun of the Essen-based energy services company ConEnergy.
That interest stems from multiple factors. On the one hand, Turkey's economy grew by nearly 10 percent in 2010 and 2011. Furthermore, it has a young population - average age, 28 - which adds to the country's dynamism.
"And anyway, its geostrategic position is one of a kind," Grun added, noting as well, however, that the liberalization of the Turkish market represents one of the biggest opportunities and challenges for the country.
Opening up the markets
"The state's monopolies are falling away now, and the market is open to both Turkish and international companies," Grun says. Many providers in the energy sector see the move toward liberalization as an ideal chance to enter the market.
"Some of the heavy hitters in European energy want to get in on the market, including EON and RWE. Many other providers will follow them."
Meanwhile, Grun says, the domestic political crisis involving corruption allegations against Prime Minister Erdogan and his use of Internet censorship is doing little to deter investors.
Turkey is currently working on multiple projects to diversify its regional energy supplies. For one, there is the southern gas corridor, intended to transport natural gas from the Caspian Sea and Middle East to Europe without crossing Russia. The southern gas corridor is to be served by the trans-Anatolian gas pipeline (TANAP), which aims to transport natural gas from Azerbaijan through Turkey and into Europe.
Dodging Russia to the south
The "Hurriyet" daily reports construction of the 45-billion-dollar (32.5-billion-euro) project as set to begin in 2015 and conclude within four years. TANAP is expected to pull 16 billion cubic meters of gas from the Azerbaijani Shah Deniz II gas field. Ten billion cubic meters would flow to the European market, wtih six million remaining in Turkey.
Further, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq is set to play an important role as a partner to Turkey on energy issues. The government of the autonomous region of Kurdistan, with its seat in Erbil, has agreed to begin exporting around four billion cubic meters of gas per year to Turkey as of 2017, Turkish media have reported.
Beginning in 2020, that figure is supposed to jump to 20 billion cubic meters.
Natural gas from Cyprus to Israel
The eastern Mediterranean region has also attracted attention from the global natural gas industry in recent years, particularly thanks to the discovery of natural gas sources near the shores of Israel and Cyprus. Turkish media have speculated that the former could become a gas exporter, including to Turkey by way of a pipeline, but that unresolved issues with Cyprus would prove an impediment to trade.
For the moment, says Turkish energy expert Mehmet Ogutcu, TANAP is the only project worth mentioning. However, even if that pipeline comes about as planned, Ogutcu does not believe Turkey will become an energy powerhouse.
"To become one, you're not talking 16 billion cubic meters of gas - you'd need 50 to 60 billion, instead. The EU alone needs more than 250 billion cubic meters of natural gas, and Turkey can't deliver that by itself," Ogutcu told DW.
No replacement for Russia
In spite of the many possibilities Turkey represents for Europe, no one can become completely independent from Russia, Ogutcu insists, saying Turkey could instead serve as a good additional provider to allow for added energy security.
"Turkey is a trustworthy partner because it belongs to NATO, the OECD, the Council of Europe and is striving for EU membership. As such, it can contribute to a diversification of Europe's approach to energy politics," Ogutcu says.
The security of Turkey's energy supply is not at all affected by the current crisis involving Russia and will also not come into danger in the coming weeks, says Fatih Birol, head economist at the International Energy Agency.
"Turkey has a key role in global energy politics. Through its position, Turkey can serve as a reliable transit country for energy," Birol told DW.
She also considers the Russian crisis a problem that can be overcome. "Such problems can emerge at any time, in any country," she said.