TurkStream: Russia’s Newest Gas Pipeline to Europe

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Updated February 5, 2020
TurkStream: Russia’s Newest Gas Pipeline to Europe
Russia’s state-owned natural gas company Gazprom has
which onshore construction continues, is intended to deliver
long sought to protect its share of Europe’s natural gas
gas to European markets. For information on Turkey’s
market. Along with the controversial Nord Stream 2 project
status as a regional energy transport hub, see CRS Report
(see CRS In Focus IF11138, Nord Stream 2: A Fait
R41368, Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jim
Accompli?), Gazprom’s TurkStream project could
Zanotti and Clayton Thomas.
strengthen Russia’s foothold in the European energy
market, especially southern Europe. It also could cement
Many analysts view TurkStream as a counter to the U.S.-
Turkey’s status as a lead recipient of Russian gas, at a time
backed Southern Gas Corridor project, which is to transport
of relatively strong Turkish-Russian relations. Opponents of
natural gas from Azerbaijan to Europe. The Southern Gas
the TurkStream project, including the Trump
Corridor, in its present form, includes three connecting
Administration and some Members of Congress, have
pipelines with an annual capacity of 16 BCM—roughly half
expressed concern that the project could also help erode
the proposed capacity of TurkStream: the South Caucasus
Ukraine’s transit role for natural gas.
Pipeline (SCP) in Azerbaijan and Georgia; the Trans-
Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) through Turkey; and the
In 2018, Gazprom supplied more than 40% of the EU’s
Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), currently under construction
natural gas imports and about 50% of Turkey’s. Many
from Greece to Italy, via Albania. First delivery through
analysts maintain that Moscow could use its energy exports
TANAP to Turkey was in June 2018, and TAP is scheduled
as leverage in countries that are dependent upon Russian
to begin operations in 2020. Turkey has contracted for 6
natural gas. The United States, in turn, has long supported
BCM from TANAP, and 10 BCM will continue on to Italy.
projects to diversify natural gas supplies to Europe and
undercut Russia’s market dominance.
Project Status
TurkStream’s subsea portion was completed in November
2018, and the Kiyikoy receiving terminal was completed in
Turkey is Russia’s largest non-EU natural gas export
2019. On January 8, 2020, Russian President Vladimir
market. Russia has exported natural gas to Turkey through
Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
several pipelines (see Figure 1). The north-south Trans-
officially inaugurated TurkStream.
Balkan Pipeline (TBP), completed in the late 1980s,
transported Russian gas to Turkey until January 2020 (see
Figure 1. Southeastern European Gas Infrastructure
below). From Ukraine, TBP crosses Moldova, Romania,
and Bulgaria. In addition to transporting gas to these
countries and Turkey, TBP also was a route for Russian gas
supplies to North Macedonia and Greece. The Blue Stream
pipeline, which became operational in 2003, is a joint
project between Gazprom and Italy’s Eni that crosses the
Black Sea and makes landfall in central Turkey.
The TurkStream project arose after the 2014 cancellation of
Russia’s South Stream project, a Gazprom-led venture that
would have transported Russian natural gas across the
Black Sea to Bulgaria and further into Europe. It was also
viewed as a counter to the Western-backed Nabucco
pipeline proposal. The South Stream project collapsed,
however, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and
amid a dispute between Gazprom and the EU involving EU

regulatory demands. In December 2014, Russian President
Source: Created by CRS using data from U.S. Department of State,
Vladimir Putin announced the cancellation of South Stream
HIS, ESRI, European Network of Transmission System Operators for
as Gazprom signed a Memorandum of Understanding with
Gas, Bulgartransgaz.
BOTAŞ Petroleum Pipeline Corporation, a Turkish state-

owned company, to construct TurkStream.
The second TurkStream line is to transport Russian natural
gas from the Turkish landing point to southeastern and
The TurkStream project is to consist of two parallel
central European markets via Bulgaria, Serbia, and
pipelines with a total capacity of 31.5 billion cubic meters
Hungary. The European extension (also referred to as
(BCM) per year (15.75 BCM each). The pipelines enter the
“TurkStream 2”) is to comprise new and existing
water in Anapa, Russia, and make landfall in Kiyikoy, close
to Turkey’s border with Bulgaria. The first pipeline
infrastructure. Bulgarian officials estimate completion by
mid-2020 of around 295 miles of pipeline that is to cross
supplies natural gas to Turkey. The second pipeline, for

TurkStream: Russia’s Newest Gas Pipeline to Europe
the country and connect to Serbian infrastructure. Serbia’s
Since then, and particularly after Putin showed support for
250-mile segment of pipeline is reportedly complete. In
Erdogan during the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, Turkey
June 2019, Serbia and Hungary reached an agreement to
and Russia have cultivated closer ties. They have
construct trans-border infrastructure; at the time, Hungarian
coordinated action more closely in Syria, while also moving
officials stated that construction would begin in mid-2020.
forward with TurkStream and a Russian S-400 air defense
system sale to Turkey. Although some differences persist in
As EU members, Bulgaria and Hungary are treaty-bound to
Syria and Libya, their general rapprochement comes while
comply with EU energy rules requiring ownership
U.S.-Turkey relations are facing heightened tensions.
unbundling and third-party access; these provisions aim to
prevent conflicts of interest in the supply and delivery of
U.S. Policy Considerations
gas. EU candidate country Serbia is committed to these
Members of Congress and the Administration have
rules as a signatory to the Energy Community (EC), a
expressed concern over Nord Stream 2, TurkStream, and
treaty-based platform that seeks to extend EU energy rules
other projects they assert would deepen Europe’s reliance
to the bloc’s neighbors. The EC has raised concerns about
on Russian natural gas, reduce Ukraine’s role as a transit
the Serbian TurkStream section’s compliance with
state, and potentially be a source of increased leverage for
regulations and the potential for further market foreclosure. Russia. The Nord Stream system and TurkStream are to
Gazprom began gas deliveries to some markets via
provide Russia with a total additional capacity of over 140
TurkStream in January 2020 using partially completed and
BCM a year to Europe (including Turkey). This amount
existing infrastructure. These volumes, which reach markets
nearly equals Ukraine’s total transit capacity of 146 BCM.
in Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, and North Macedonia, now
The Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia
bypass Ukraine. According to Ukrainian energy officials, as
Act of 2017 (CRIEEA; P.L. 115-44) authorizes (but does
of January 1, 2020, TBP is delivering gas to Romania and
not require) sanctions on individuals or entities that invest
Moldova, but no longer to Bulgaria or further downstream.
at least $1 million, or $5 million over 12 months, or engage
Southeastern European Market Impact
in trade valued at an equivalent amount for the construction
of Russian energy export pipelines (§232; 22 U.S.C. 9526).
Observers consider gas markets in Southeastern Europe to
In October 2017, the Administration published guidance
be less interconnected and less liberalized relative to other
noting that Section 232 sanctions would not apply to
regions of Europe, and more reliant upon Russia as a gas
projects for which contracts were signed prior to August 2,
supplier. TurkStream’s proponents in Bulgaria, Serbia, and
2017, the date of CRIEEA’s enactment. For further
Hungary assert that the project will strengthen energy
information, see CRS Report R45415, U.S. Sanctions on
security by opening a new supply route; the region
Russia, coordinated by Cory Welt.
experienced major wintertime supply disruptions in 2009
when Russia temporarily halted exports via Ukraine due to
The FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA,
the two parties’ gas contract dispute. Officials also are keen
P.L. 116-92) includes as Title LXXV the Protecting
to secure transit revenue from TurkStream. Some analysts,
Europe’s Energy Security Act of 2019 (PEESA). This act
however, caution that TurkStream’s extension could deepen
mandates sanctions related to the laying of Nord Stream 2
Russia’s market dominance.
and TurkStream subsea pipelines, and possible successors;
At the same time, others note that Southeastern European
it is unclear whether and how these sanctions apply to the
gas markets could be reshaped by new interconnectors and
already constructed TurkStream.
liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminals that could
The Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L.
further integrate gas markets and open access to alternative
116-94) includes the European Energy Security and
suppliers via TAP and LNG. Turkey and Greece have
Diversification Act of 2019 (Division P, Title XX), which
increased U.S. LNG imports in recent years, while Bulgaria
seeks to promote the diversification of Central and East
made its first purchase of U.S. LNG in 2019.
European energy sources and supply routes.
Relations Between Russia and Turkey
U.S. LNG Exports
It is unclear to what extent TurkStream reflects or
Although Turkey has received about 4% of U.S. LNG
reinforces seemingly improved ties between Russia and
exports since they began in 2016, the volumes are a small
Turkey, traditional rivals whose relations have often been
fraction compared to what Russia supplies to Turkey via
fraught. Turkey is a NATO member and a long-standing
pipeline. Russia can offer lower prices in markets it wants
U.S. ally with geostrategic importance. Some analysts view
to influence, which could make it difficult for U.S. LNG
the Turkey-Russia relationship as less a potential strategic
export projects to compete. Nevertheless, growing U.S. gas
partnership than a “marriage of convenience” as the two
exports provide an alternative supply source.
countries compartmentalize relations, alternating between
cooperation and competition depending on the issue.
Sarah E. Garding, Analyst in Balkan and Southeast
Russia-Turkey relations—and, at times, TurkStream
Europe Affairs
negotiations—were tested by recent flashpoints in broader
Michael Ratner, Specialist in Energy Policy
tensions over the conflict in Syria. A low point came in
Cory Welt, Specialist in European Affairs
2015-2016, after Turkey downed a Russian plane near the
Jim Zanotti, Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs
Turkey-Syria border and Russia temporarily imposed
sanctions until receiving an apology from Turkish President

TurkStream: Russia’s Newest Gas Pipeline to Europe

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