Georgia opens new oil pipeline

Oct 12, 2005 02:00 AM

In what was lauded as an effort to reduce global dependency on Middle Eastern oil, the presidents of Georgia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan opened for the first time the Georgian section of their joint pipeline.
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, along with his Azerbaijani and Turkish counterparts, Ilham Aliyev and Ahmet Sezer, were on hand for a ceremony in south-eastern Georgia where they each pushed buttons opening the valves of the section of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline that runs through Georgia.

Others at the ceremony for the opening of the US-backed Caspian pipeline included officials from the US State Department, as well as US Ambassador Steven Mann, senior adviser at the State Department for Caspian Basin Energy Diplomacy, and BP Chief Executive John Browne.
Once fully operational, the pipeline, created by a consortium of companies led by BP, is expected to produce 1 mm bpd, said officials, and generate $ 50 mm annually in revenue for the three nations.

The BTC is named for the capitals of Azerbaijan and Georgia, respectively, and the Turkish port city of Ceyhan, where the oil will end its 1,760-km journey. A total of 10 mm barrels of oil is needed to fill pipeline. The first flow of oil is expected to reach Turkey by the end of the month.
The idea for the pipeline was born in the mid-1990s and ground was first broken on its construction in 2003.

In remarks at the ceremony, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili praised President Aliyev for an oil policy that he believes will lead Azerbaijan to success.
"This is of crucial importance to us, because Azerbaijan is our strategic partner. Georgia is not only a friendly state to Azerbaijan but also a state (Azerbaijan) can count on," said Saakashvili.

The Georgian president also called the inauguration a historic step toward increasing Georgia's geopolitical profile.
"This region is no longer an impasse, this region is now important. Our country now has alternatives, options… hence more independence," he said. The three leaders unanimously also stressed the importance of further cooperation, most notably with regard to the $ 3 bn Caspian Sea Shakh-Deniz gas pipeline, scheduled to begin operations in 2006.

Saakashvili said the project would help Georgia become increasingly independent in terms of energy supplies.
"Once the sister pipeline Shakh-Deniz starts pumping natural gas to Turkey via Georgia, the country will significantly have strengthened the security of its natural gas supply system," Nika Vashakidze, president of the Georgian International Oil Corp., told.

The pipeline is not without its detractors, however. Human rights groups and environmentalists allege the BTC would add 170 mm tons of carbon dioxide to the earth's atmosphere every year once fully operational, about 30 % of Britain's annual emissions, according to the Baku-Ceyhan Campaign, an anti-pipeline group.
Others, like Hannah Ellis, a campaigner for International Financial Institutions at the environmental group Friends of the Earth criticized the use of public funds in the form of aid from the Work Bank and others for a project that she said would pose serious environmental and safety risks to the region.

Source: ISN Security Watch
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