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    Caspian oil pipeline opens
    Posted Thu May 26, 2005 5:16am AEST

    The United States has hailed the opening of a new $5.24 billion pipeline that will take Caspian region oil to western markets as a "historic project" that will also strengthen the independence of Azerbaijan and Georgia.

    The presidents of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Kazakhstan were joined by other top officials including the head of British energy giant BP, John Browne, for the formal launch of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline.

    The British oil giant BP holds a leading 30 per cent stake in the consortium running the pipeline. Other consortium members include Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR, Amerada Hess, ConocoPhillips, Eni, Inpex, Itochu, Statoil, Total, TPAO and Unocal.

    The pipeline is to ship one million barrels of Caspian oil, roughly 1 per cent of global oil production, to Turkey's Mediterranean coast daily once it is fully up and running by the end of the year.

    The pipeline is expected to become a major competitor to traditional export routes for Caspian oil that pass through Russia.

    US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: "The United States has long supported this historic project as a centrepiece of the East-West Energy Corridor".

    "The $4 billion ($A5.24 billion), 1,000 mile-long BTC pipeline will bring crude oil - initially one million barrels a day - from Azerbaijan's southern Caspian offshore fields through Georgia to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan for shipment to world markets," he said.

    "The BTC pipeline will reinforce the sovereignty and prosperity of Azerbaijan and Georgia. BTC will further integrate Azerbaijan and Georgia into the international free market economy and promote their development, while advancing our shared goal of developing multiple oil and gas export routes."

    "The BTC pipeline will also enhance Turkey's emerging role as an energy transportation hub and help reduce oil tanker traffic congestion in the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits.

    "The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline is a major success for the US goal of enhancing and diversifying global energy supplies," he said.

    US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman read a letter from US President George W Bush at the opening ceremony in which the American leader hailed the project as a "monumental achievement".
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