Istanbul, Turkey – A Turkish drilling ship has discovered a big natural gas reserve in the Black Sea.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters that the drilling ship Fatih, which has been operating in the area since July, had found 320bn cubic meters of gas.

He said it was Turkey’s biggest natural gas find to date.

If Turkey can extract the gas commercially, it will be able to reduce its reliance on imported energy.

President Erdoğan said all tests and engineering work had been completed.

He added: “This reserve is actually part of a much bigger source. God willing, much more will come.

“There will be no stopping until we become a net exporter in energy.”

President Erdoğan said he hoped to start extracting the gas by 2023.

Turkey has also sent a ship to carry out a drilling survey in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Oruc Reis left port on 10 August, accompanied by five naval vessels. It was reported the next day to be sailing in waters between Crete and Cyprus.

On Friday, President Erdoğan said he intended to accelerate operations in the Mediterranean.