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BTC oil pipeline fire extinguished: BP

by Orhan Coskun

ANKARA (Reuters) — A fire on the Baku-Tbil­isi-Cey­han (BTC) oil pipeline in Turkey was extin­guished on Mon­day, a senior source at BP, a major share­hold­er in the pipeline, told Reuters.

The pipeline car­ry­ing Azeri crude, which pass­es through Geor­gia, was hit by an explo­sion on Turk­ish ter­ri­to­ry two days before con­flict began over the South Osse­tia region.

Repairs may not be fin­ished for one to two weeks or longer, accord­ing to a source at Turkey’s state-owned pipeline com­pa­ny Botas. No oil is cur­rent­ly flow­ing through the pipeline.

World oil prices rose last week after the announce­ment of the blaze, and esti­mates that it could take up to two weeks to get the pipeline on stream again.

“Today we put the fire out, and imme­di­ate­ly after that we start­ed try­ing to cool down the pipeline. As soon as the cool­ing process ends, we will begin assess­ing the dam­age and start repairs,” the BP source, who declined to be named, said.

The pipeline nor­mal­ly car­ries Azeri oil which is high qual­i­ty and com­mands a pre­mi­um. The $4 bil­lion BTC pipeline can pump up to a mil­lion bar­rels per day, the equiv­a­lent of more than 1 per­cent of world sup­ply, from fields in the Azeri sec­tor of the Caspi­an Sea to Cey­han on the Turk­ish Mediter­ranean coast.

Traders said load­ings of Azeri crude from Cey­han would be delayed by about three weeks and lift­ing dates for Sep­tem­ber were not yet avail­able because of the pipeline dam­age.

The ship­ping sched­ule for Azeri crude is nor­mal­ly released around the ninth of every month.

The biggest hin­drance to fire­fight­ing efforts was oil that set­tled in the pipeline since the flow was stopped last Tues­day.

Tech­ni­cal teams sent to the site of the fire will assess the dam­age and the BTC con­sor­tium will decide how to pro­ceed.

One repair method put forth by the teams could take two weeks or longer, push­ing back orig­i­nal esti­mates for a date to get the pipeline back on line.

Britain’s BP Plc owns 30.1 per­cent of BTC, while Azeri state oil com­pa­ny Socar holds 25 per­cent. Oth­er share­hold­ers include U.S. com­pa­nies Chevron and Cono­coPhillips, Nor­way’s Sta­toil­Hy­dro, Italy’s ENI and France’s Total.

Kur­dish sep­a­ratists claimed respon­si­bil­i­ty for the explo­sion and said they would car­ry out more attacks on eco­nom­ic tar­gets inside Turkey.

Mil­i­tary and local offi­cial sources said the fire was due to a tech­ni­cal error and was not due to sab­o­tage.


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