Turkey has kicked off fresh drilling at its giant Sakarya gas field in the Black Sea as the Ankara administration pushes for a fast-track development of the breakthrough find.

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The state-owned drillship Fatih has spud the Turkali-1 appraisal well at Sakarya, the Energy Ministry said on Thursday.

Drilling operations are expected to take 75 days.

State player Turkish Petroleum (TPAO) is aiming to appraise reserves at the field and gather additional reservoir information that will inform any development plan.

When the discovery was made — at the Tuna-1 wildcat — in August, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pegged the size of the find at 320 billion cubic metres, which is about 11.3 trillion cubic feet.

In mid-October he announced that this had been increased to 405 Bcm, or about 14.3 Tcf.

Sakarya that lies about 100 nautical miles north of the Turkish coast.

Key gas development

Turkey spent $41 billion on energy imports last year and the payments it makes to buy gas from neighbouring countries have long been a drag on its currency.

Ankara is banking on the success of its Black Sea exploration campaign to strengthen its hand in negotiations with top pipeline exporters in renewing long-term contracts totalling 16 Bcm per annum.

More than a quarter of Turkey's long-term gas contracts expire next year, including imports from Russia's Gazprom and Azerbaijan's Socar and a liquefied natural gas deal with Nigeria.