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Azerbaijan - Georgia - Turkey
Under the Caspian Sea lies one of the largest untapped energy reserves on the planet. It's estimated that 200 billion barrels of oil are there. First discovered by the Soviets, today everybody wants a share.
The West is building a massive pipeline to tap into the reserves and meet its never-ending demand for oil. When complete in 2005, the pipeline will be capable of pumping one million barrels of oil a day from the Caspian to tankers waiting in the Mediterranean Sea which will bring the oil to world markets.
Known as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) Pipeline, it will stretch 1,100 miles (1,750 km) through remote and challenging terrain. At a cost of 2.9 billion dollars, the pipeline is being built by an international consortium of eleven partners led by BP, a U.K. oil company.
FACTS ABOUT THE BTC PIPELINE
It will take 150 thousand sections of pipe to build the pipeline, enough steel for a half million cars.
The pipeline will be 85-115 cm in diameter and carry the oil at 2 metres per second.
It will carry 1 million barrels of oil per day, for an estimated 40 years.
It reaches a maximum altitude of 2800 metres and will cross 770 roads and 1500 waterways.
There will be 8 pumping stations and 4 metering stations.
It begins at the Caspian Sea, in Baku, AZERBAIJAN, where a corrupt government headed by dictator, Ilhad Aliyev, stands to make a huge profit. Socar, (the state oil company of Azerbaijan) one of the key participants in the project, has been widely accused of scandal.
Veering north through Azerbaijan, the pipeline is built underground and avoids some of the country's most politically troubled regions. Local people who had high hopes that the project would result in jobs found that the pipeline brought few benefits to their communities.
Next, the pipeline passes through GEORGIA, one of the most lawless and unstable countries in the region. Georgia's badlands are a haven for kidnappers who do big business capturing businessmen and government officials. The Pankisi Gorge, near Georgia's border with troubled Chechnya, is said to be a haven for Chechen rebels and possibly Al Quaeda fugitives. It's such a serious threat the U.S. government has sent military to the region to train the Georgian Army how to fight the war on terror and also to protect the pipeline.
The pipeline will cut into the Borjomi Valley, an unspoiled region and home of the world famous Borjomi mineral water, Georgia's biggest export. The area is geographically unstable and the locals are concerned that a landslide could rupture the pipeline and devastate the ecology.
The pipeline stretches for 1,100 miles (1,750 km) from Baku, Azerbaijan to Ceyhan, Turkey.
Finally the BTC pipeline will cross into TURKEY and wind through some of the poorest villages in the country. Although a million dollars worth of oil will pump by their homes each hour, the pipeline has brought a minimal economic benefit to the area's locals.
It will bypass the Kurdish areas of Turkey where political unrest is viewed as a potential danger to the project and end at the port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea. The engineers there hope that the pipeline's completion will herald a new era in energy policy, as the West's oil supplies become less dependent on the Middle East.