Turkish gas importer and grid operator Botas has cut gas supplies to the country's combined-cycle power plants to head off a potential shortage.
This month, the company ordered the operators of these plants to reduce their gas intake by 50%. Furthermore, state-owned utility EUAS was told either to halt generation at its gas-fired plants altogether or switch to alternative fuels where possible.
The cut comes on the back of unseasonably cold weather hitting energy-intensive areas in the northwest of the country around Istanbul and the capital, Ankara. Daily demand for gas from Turkey regional gas distributors, which supply residential and commercial customers, surpassed 170 mcm on December 13. Botas’ transmission grid is only capable of supplying 200 mcm to both distributors and power generators at any one time.
The sudden spike in demand for both gas and power has exacerbated an existing shortfall in available supplies caused by two cuts in gas flow from Iran over the past month. Botas responded to these disruptions by line packing in order maintain supplies in the short term. The first cut in Iranian supplies was in late October and was caused by an attack on the Iran-Turkey pipeline, which typically supplies around 20 mcm of gas per day. The explosion left the pipeline off line for four days. A second cut last month, which reduced flow by 90%, was caused by technical problems at a compressor station in Iran.
Officials from private generating companies have cautioned that further cuts in gas supply coupled with continuing cold weather could cause further gas shortages and possibly even power cuts. Turkey operates 244 gas-fired power plants with a maximum output of 22,500 MW, or 29% of the country’s overall generation. The limited transmission capacity of national grid, coupled with a lack of storage, has meant that Botas has been forced to impose gas cuts at power plants during cold spells for three winters in a row. Similarly, in early 2011, cuts in gas supply from both Iran and Azerbaijan that were blamed on "technical problems" resulted in supply shortages and lengthy power outages in many parts of the country.