1- Bursagaz management recently changed hands. Even though we know you as one of the important actors in the sector, we would like to ask for those who do not: Who is Gunter Seymus?
As you have expressed Bursagaz was purchased in June 2019 by SOCAR Turkey, Turkey's largest foreign direct investor. There was not only Bursagaz in this process. After negotiations held with German EWE, Kayserigaz, EWE Energy, Enervis and Millenicom companies joined SOCAR Turkey as well as Bursagaz. These companies were then gathered under the same roof of SOCAR Turkey Natural Gas Investment Inc. First of all, I would like to say that as a person who has been in the natural gas sector for years, it is a very valuable duty for me to take part in such a structure and to assume the presidency of this framework.
If I need to talk about myself, I completed my undergraduate education at KU Leuven in Belgium between the years 1993-1997. Then I studied International Relations at Universite Catholique de Louvain in Belgium. Between the years 1999-2000, I got my master's degree from King’s College London. In 2001, I started my professional career as an analyst in the finance sector in London. Afterwards, while I was working in different corporations in the fields of telecommunication and software in London, I began to work at SOCAR in 2010.
2- We know that SOCAR has an important role in your career. What would you say if we asked about the meaning and importance of SOCAR for you?
At SOCAR, where I spent almost half of my professional life, I had the opportunity to take part in giant projects around the world. I have been working for SOCAR for more than 10 years now, both in Turkey and abroad; in the corporate development and management functions of trade, distribution and transmission subsidiaries.
In addition to developing companies and partnerships in oil, natural gas and energy sectors, I worked on post-merger integration, crisis management, restructuring and organizational design. It is a fact that SOCAR, the famous Azerbaijani company in oil and natural gas, has been a turning point for me in my business life.
3- As of June 2019 as President of SOCAR Turkey Natural Gas Investment Corporation, you continue your duty under this roof. How do you assess the place of the energy and gas sector in Turkey?
Turkey is not a rich country in terms of energy resources but it is in a position of strategic importance between the countries in the region that have proven oil and natural gas reserves and consumer markets in Europe. As a matter of fact, because of this strategic importance, it takes firm steps forward being an important trade center in the world in terms of oil and natural gas with the giant projects like BTC, TANAP, Turkish Stream.
When we look at the natural gas sector in Turkey, we see that natural gas consumption is increasing each passing day with the urbanization, industrialization and economic growth. The annual natural gas consumption is around 48-50 billion cubic meters, although the share of natural gas in electricity production has declined slightly, the growth in its use as a fuel is remarkable. According to GAZBİR, the sector association, the number of subscribers is 15 million 500 thousand as of the end of 2018 and it is expected that there will be 1 million new subscribers this year.
4- How do you evaluate Bursagaz's activities in the region and what awaits Bursagaz and its users in the future?
Bursagaz, established by BOTAŞ in 1992 to distribute natural gas, has a deep-rooted history. The company strengthened its experience after the privatization process in 2004. With this latest acquisition, Bursagaz, which provides continuous and high-quality natural gas distribution services to more than 1 million natural gas distribution subscribers in Bursa, and SOCAR’s gas business, which has undertaken natural gas distribution in Azerbaijan and Georgia for years, are now under the same roof. Of course, in the coming periods, Bursagaz subscribers will see the difference of this powerful structure. Our colleagues continue to work on bringing SOCAR's advanced technology applications to Bursagaz users. Within this year, the citizens of Bursa will be able to notice the important steps we have taken in this sense.
5- SOCAR Turkey became a symbol of the growing economic cooperation between the two brother countries Azerbaijan and Turkey. Can you tell us about the investments made so far?
SOCAR purchased 51 percent share of Petkim in 2008 during the privatization process for 2 billion 40 million dollars, making a strong entrance to Turkey and launching a powerful transformation process in Petkim, which is the first and only petrochemical plant of Turkey. Each year, SOCAR Turkey makes an additional investment of 100 million dollars to Petkim and the total investments in this sense exceeded 1 billion dollars.
After Petkim, SOCAR Turkey built the $400 million SOCAR Terminal, $6.3 billion STAR Refinery, $6.5 billion Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline Project (TANAP) and the total actual investment in Turkey exceeded $15 billion. SOCAR Turkey aims to increase this figure to 19.5 billion dollars with ongoing projects. When the investments are completed, SOCAR plans to be one of Turkey's three major holding companies and the largest industrial holding.
While these investments are contributing to economic cooperation of the two brother countries Azerbaijan and Turkey at a high level, by increasing the value added production power of Turkey, they are creating a benefit that reduces external dependence, especially in petrochemicals and petroleum products. STAR Refinery, which is the largest investment in the real sector at a single point in Turkey, began production at full capacity as of September. With this investment alone, Turkey's annual current account deficit will be decreased by $1.5 billion.
As I mentioned above, SOCAR's investments in Turkey continue without slowing down. In order to maximize the operational efficiency of STAR Refinery, an additional investment of approximately $600 million was laid in recent months. Another project is in the field of petrochemicals. SOCAR Turkey plans to establish a new petrochemical plant in İzmir Aliağa, in conjunction with BP. In 2020, fieldwork will begin for this project whose investment value is expected to be around 1.8 billion dollars. The final investment decision of this project is aimed to be taken in 2020, and we expect to start operations of the plant in 2023.
6- Does SOCAR Turkey plan new investments in natural gas field?
The share of natural gas in SOCAR's activities is quite large. SOCAR has been distributing the natural gas of Azerbaijan and Georgia for many years. Therefore, we are talking about a great experience in this field. We will of course continue to utilize the opportunities in natural gas field as a group who wants to grow in Turkey.
7- Finally, what would you like to say to the readers of Mavi Yeşil?
In Bursa where the nature, history and trade in such harmoniously intertwined, we will initiate different projects that will make a good impact in the coming period. I would like to underline once again, as SOCAR Turkey we are very happy to be serving our customers in this beautiful city.