BTC oil pipeline could see capacity increase

Eric Watkins
Senior Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, June 1 -- The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, jointly owned by BP PLC, Chevron Corp., Statoil ASA, Eni SPA, and Total SA, could see its capacity increase by some 60% from its current limits in 4 years largely due to expected throughput from Kazakhstan, according to a senior company official.

Norman Ingram, a BP executive who helps oversee the BTC pipeline, told a conference in Paris that it is "very attainable" for the line's capacity to be expanded to 1.6 million b/d by 2011. He said the BTC line is currently transporting 885,000 b/d, but that Kazakhstan's Kashagan project, which is expected to increase the country's production by 1 million b/d, would be a key driver of any capacity increase.

Ingram's remarks underline steps taken by the Kazakh government over the past year toward supporting the BTC line. Last June, Kazakhstan said it would begin transporting oil through the BTC line following an agreement signed June 16 by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Azeribaijan President Ilham Aliev (OGJ Online, June 19, 2006).

Since then, Kazakhstan's state-owned KazMunaiGaz has signed a memorandum of understanding with Tengizchevroil and Agip KCO for the development of a new transport entity, Kazakhstan Caspian Transport System, to export Kazakhstan oil for onward shipment to Baku where it would be pumped into the BTC line (OGJ Online, Jan. 26, 2007).

Meanwhile press reports from Azerbaijan, citing a BP Azerbaijan vice-president, say work is in progress to increase the throughput of the line by an additional 200,000 b/d to its current full capacity of 1 million b/d. The reports did not state what measures were being taken to increase throughput or when the increase was expected.

The reports said 131 million bbl of crude oil—all of it from the offshore Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli oil field in the Caspian Sea—have been exported via the BTC line since June 4, 2006, when the first tanker shipped oil from Ceyhan, the line's terminus on Turkey's southern coastline.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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