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BP says testing begins on BTC pipeline PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2008

AP, LONDON -- British oil company BP PLC said that testing will begin Wednesday on the closed Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which runs through conflict-stricken Georgia, ahead of a move to restart full operations as early as next week.

BP spokeswoman Sheila Williams said that the ''dynamic integrity testing'' would involve ''limited and intermediate flow'' of oil through the BTC line, which usually provides some 1 million barrels per day of Caspian Sea crude to international markets.
 
The line, owned by a consortium of energy companies led by BP, has been closed for more than two weeks after a fire on its Turkish stretch. Kurdish rebels took responsibility for the blaze.
 
Williams said that the port in Ceyhan, Turkey, has been given orders to update its lifting program, which transports oil from the pipeline, to restart work from the beginning of next week, giving an indication of when the pipeline is likely to be fully operational again.
 
BP's options to export Caspian oil have been seriously curtailed by both the fire on the BTC line and the Russian military actions in Georgia.
 
The London-based company last week shut down its Baku-Supsa oil pipeline -- which runs through the center of Georgia from Baku in Azerbaijan to Supsa on Georgia's Black Sea coast -- because of security concerns. Williams said Wednesday that the line, which has the capacity to pump up to 150,000 barrels a day, but had recently been pumping around 90,000 barrels a day, remains closed.
 
She added that a railway line that exports Azeri oil through Georgia also remains out of action, following reports of damage to the line, which can carry between 50,000 and 70,000 barrels of Azeri oil to Batumi.
 
Georgian officials accused Russia of blowing up a key railway bridge on the line -- running from the capital of Tbilisi through the city of Gori before splitting in three to head to the ports of Batumi and Poti on the Black Sea and a location just shy of the Turkish border -- on Saturday, severing the country's main east-west rail route. Officials later vowed to restore the link within a week.
 
BP has reduced its production in oil fields in the Caspian Sea because of the pipeline closures -- analysts say it's likely been reduced by a third from the 800,000 barrels a day before the BTC line was damaged.
 
The EU had been trying to wean itself away from energy dependence on Moscow, which supplies a quarter of its oil and half of its natural gas, by developing routes for Central Asian resources that bypass Russia. A key to that strategy was the network of energy routes that run through Georgia.
 
BP has the biggest stake in the BTC line, owning 30.1 percent, followed by the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan with 25 percent. Chevron, Total and ConocoPhillips all have smaller stakes.

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