During the visit we paid as a group of journalists to the Aliağa district in İzmir on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of petrochemicals maker Petkim, which is regarded as a milestone for Turkey's history of industrialization, Kenan Yavuz, the CEO of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR), whose name we have heard often in recent years, welcomed us.
He said: "Leave aside political discussions for one day. I will narrate for you what has been accomplished in Turkey through the example of Aliağa." Curious about what he really meant, we first watched a short documentary film presenting the 50 years of Petkim. The brief history of Petkim can also be seen as a summary of the history of industrialization of Turkey. This summary also encompassed the settlement of accounts between those who were exerting efforts to make the country prosper, and the bureaucratic mindset that hindered them, which is a conflict that still ongoing.
As you can see, Petkim has overcome many challenges to achieve its current position. Being Turkey's first and only petrochemicals facility, Petkim produces various raw materials that are essential for our daily lives, including health and food products, plastics and cosmetics. This industrial enterprise makes a great contribution to the country's economy since it decreases the need for imports.
The first historic step to form the enterprise was taken in 1965. In 1985, it was relocated to Aliağa and a chance for privatization was created. But it could not be privatized for 22 years. Petkim turned into an ordinary state economic enterprise in which employees were recruited according to political considerations. Finally, the prime minister at the time and current president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, privatized Petkim in 2008, which also led to a historic process in terms of Turkish-Azerbaijani relations.
This picture is enough to describe the point that has been reached. Turkey's second greatest refinery, which boasts a 10-million-ton annual capacity, is now located on the Aliağa peninsula. A large port that will compete with Greece's Piraeus Port is also about to be completed. And the most important and strategic initiative among many others is the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), a gas pipeline that will extend from Azerbaijan to Italy.
A total of $20 billion has been invested in the project. As you can see, Petkim leads to the Star Refinery and the refinery leads to the TANAP energy line. Yavuz also mentioned the importance of political will in developing strategic relations between the two countries. "I can clearly assert that none of these investments could have been made if not for Turkey's President Erdoğan and Azerbaijan's President İlham Aliyev. They closely follow our investments and provide support if required, since we face major bureaucratic barriers. But so far we have overcome all the obstacles thanks to our president," he said.
Petkim was an important step for Azerbaijan to collaborate with Turkey and open to the world, but it also instigated a significant process regarding Turkey's future. Yavuz described a truth that is not widely known: "Turkey made a critical move in 2014. It was not noticed due to the busy political agenda, but it was really significant. Turkey is one of the biggest gas consumers in the world - consuming annually 50 million cubic meters of gas. In 2023, this will go up to 70 million cubic meters. Turkey entered into a partnership in the 1.4 trillion cubic meters of gas reserves of the Shah Deniz 2 project located in the Caspian Sea with initiatives by the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO). Also, it bought a share of the French company ‘Total' upon the order of our esteemed president and with the support of the Azerbaijani president. Thus the Republic of Turkey has bought property abroad for the first time in its history. Now Turkey owns 19 percent of Shah Deniz 2. Also, our partnership share in TANAP went up to 30 percent from 20 percent, which means that 30 percent of the profit gained in the gas transmitted through TANAP will go to BOTAŞ Petroleum Pipeline Corporation."