Somalia and Turkey Enter into Oil and Gas Exploration Pact

Turkey and Somalia recently inked a significant energy exploration and drilling agreement, further cementing their bilateral relations following a defense pact concluded last month.

The agreement focuses on tapping into hydrocarbon reserves within Somalia’s exclusive economic zone, which have remained untapped since the collapse of the Somali government in the early 1990s. Additionally, it encompasses land exploration efforts.

Signed by Turkish Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar and Somali Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Abdirizak Omar Mohamed in Istanbul, the deal marks a pivotal step in leveraging mutual interests.

This development follows Ethiopia’s January agreement granting it naval and commercial access to ports along Somaliland’s coast in exchange for recognizing the region’s independence. In response, Turkey solidified its commitment to Somalia by signing a comprehensive naval defense deal last month. Under this agreement, Turkey is mandated to safeguard Somali sea waters against terrorism, piracy, and any external threats that could infringe upon Somali state rights for the next decade.

Reportedly hailed as “historic,” the deal also empowers Turkey to play a role in developing Somalia’s maritime resources within its exclusive economic zone.

Turkey brings to the table years of experience in offshore energy exploration, particularly highlighted by its gas discovery in the Black Sea in 2020. Currently, Ankara is in the process of developing the gas and integrating it into its domestic network for consumption.

US government reports suggest Somalia holds substantial oil and gas reserves, estimated at around 30 billion barrels, albeit requiring significant investment over the next three to five years.

In 2022, the Somali government struck an exploration deal with US-based Coastline Exploration for seven offshore blocks, with drilling slated to commence in 2025.

Meanwhile, Somaliland, an autonomous breakaway region without international recognition, signed an oil exploration deal with London-based Genel Energy in 2022. Despite Mogadishu’s objections, drilling in an area potentially holding 5 billion barrels of oil is set to commence later this year.

However, challenges and costs loom large for the Turkey-Somalia deal. According to a Turkish energy expert, extensive efforts and substantial investment—potentially up to half a billion dollars—are required for successful exploration and drilling operations in Somali waters. Further development of gas or oil reserves would entail additional costs, likely amounting to several billion dollars.

The source of financing for these projects remains uncertain, with the expert suggesting that Turkey may seek private or public partnerships. Notably, amidst global shifts towards green energy, investing in hydrocarbons may prove less attractive due to funding constraints.

Nonetheless, Turkey’s significant investments in Somalia since 2011, including establishing the largest Turkish embassy in Mogadishu and extending over $1 billion in humanitarian aid, underscore its commitment to the region. With a sizable military presence in Mogadishu and extensive training programs for Somali soldiers, Turkey appears poised to play a crucial role in Somalia’s economic and security landscape.

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