In a move that could eventually help to wean Turkey off imported oil and gas, Royal Dutch Shell is expected to sign an agreement with TPAO, the state energy company, to explore for oil in the western Black Sea, according to Reuters.

Shell set the groundwork for the agreement last September when CEO Peter Voser made an announcement from Ankara that the two companies were evaluating the prospectivity of the region.

Reuters noted that Turkey currently has to import “nearly all its energy needs” and spent US $60.1 billion on imports in 2012, adding to its deficit. The country has agreements in place with several foreign companies to explore in the Black and Mediterranean seas to help ease this deficit.

However, Business News Europe reported that Turkey’s attempts to partner with some companies have “flopped” because of the country’s involvement with exploration efforts off Cyprus.

“Turkey has struggled to find investors off its southern coast due to the growing energy conflict surrounding the divided island of Cyprus,” the publication stated.

It went on to note that Turkey’s dependence on imports is growing and that its energy use is set to double over the next 10 years. It’s also affected by US sanctions against Iranian crude, and the general level of crisis in the Middle East – disputes with Iraq over Kurdistan and civil war in Syria for example – put Turkey’s current energy supply in a great deal of peril, the publication stated.

So is there any oil in the Black Sea? Georgi Georgiev at Sofia University decided to find out. His paper, published in the Turkish Journal of Earth Sciences, studied data from boreholes, seismic, and gravity-magnetic surveys as well as known hydrocarbon accumulations.

He determined that four different oil types were present in the region, and three main hydrocarbon systems with economic potential exist. Drilling to date, which began in the 1970s, has been on the shelf area of the Black Sea. So far 15 oil and gas accumulations have been discovered, he noted.

While a considerable amount of data have been gathered over the region in the past 30 to 40 years, most of it, Georgiev reported, have been “interpreted and generalized mostly at a national level.” Additionally, the four countries that have sectors in the Black Sea – Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, and Ukraine – have used different interpretation methods.

“Therefore, a unified correlation of stratigraphic, sedimentological, and tectonic units and a uniform approach of the interpretation of borehole seismic data is of key importance for the clarification of the deep geological structure and the evolution of the entire region,” he wrote.

Of the 15 discoveries made so far, none lie in Turkish waters, and most of them have not been appraised due either to limited reserves or lack of funds, he noted. His study indicates that the deepwater part of the Western Black Sea basin (WBSB) has thick Tertiary sequences that may be potential source rock.

“Among all defined exploration trends, those related to the transition zone between the Moesian Platform and the WBSB as well as those related to the southern edge of the Scythian Platform are of the highest potential,” Georgiev wrote. “The main risk factor is the presence of good reservoirs and more volumetric traps.”

Depending on what Shell and TPAO find during the exploration work in the area, drilling could begin within two years, Reuters reported.

Contact the author, Rhonda Duey, at