BP: First Ship Loads Oil from New Caspian Pipeline

BP, operator of the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, today announced that the first cargo of oil transported through the pipeline from Azerbaijan has been exported from the Ceyhan marine terminal on the Turkish Mediterranean coast.

A cargo of around 600,000 barrels of crude oil from Azerbaijan was loaded on to the BP tanker, British Hawthorn, which sailed from the terminal today.

The loading followed the completion of the testing, commissioning and filling of the BTC pipeline along its entire 1,768-kilometer route across Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, from the Sangachal terminal on the Caspian coast near Baku to the Ceyhan terminal.

A total of 10 million barrels of oil from the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli (ACG) fields in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea were required to complete the filling of the pipeline, which began in May 2005.

The loading marks the start of the export of Azerbaijan's oil via the BTC oil pipeline to world markets, without passing through the crowded Turkish straits. The pipeline currently serves only the ACG fields but is expected, longer term, to attract volumes from other parts of the region.

The BTC Co. shareholders are: BP (30.1 percent, operator); AzBTC (25 percent); Chevron (8.9 percent); Statoil (8.71 percent); Turkey's TPAO (6.53 percent); ENI (5 percent); Total (5 percent); Itochu (3.4 percent); INPEX (2.5 percent); ConocoPhillips (2.5 percent) and Amerada Hess (2.36 percent).

The 1,768-kilometer pipeline will allow a million barrels of oil a day to be exported safely from the Caspian. The pipeline uses 46/42/34-inch diameter pipe, and has eight pump stations and 98 valve stations across the three transit countries. It crosses more than 1,500 rivers and climbs to a high point of 2,700 meters before returning to sea level at Ceyhan.

An official inauguration of the 1,076 kilometer-long Turkish section of the pipeline and the Ceyhan marine export terminal is planned for later this summer. The terminal has seven crude oil storage tanks, with a capacity of a million barrels each and a jetty two kilometers long that will allow two 300,000-ton tankers to load at the same time.

BTC is expected to bring significant benefits to the region. Avoiding the Bosphorus, it will help relieve the inevitable growth in oil-related traffic and associated environmental risks, while creating substantial revenues for the transit countries, and will help strengthen economic and political links between Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and the West.