A major energy supply route has moved a big step closer to pumping oil from the Caspian Sea fields to western markets.
British Petroleum says it is filling the head pump station on its Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline with oil. However because of the size of the conduit, BP says it will take over six months and 10 million barrels of oil to completely fill it. The pipe runs for 1770 kilometres from Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, past Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi and across eastern Turkey to the port of Ceyhan on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. Built by a consortium headed by BP at a cost of 2.8 billion euros, it can accommodate one million barrels of oil per day. The BTC main export pipeline passes through a region that is politically very volatile. Concerns have been raised about its vulnerability to attack by anti-government forces, but it has support – particularly from the US – as it does not go through Russia or Iran. However environmental groups are not happy that the buried pipeline passes through a highly active seismic zone. After tests, it is anticipated oil will start to flow following an opening ceremony in two weeks time.