July 2018: BTC pipeline celebrates 3 billion barrels of oil export

The milestone was achieved on 14 July when the 3 billionth barrel of Caspian crude flowed through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, was loaded on the 3,929th tanker and headed for world markets. By negotiating and signing the original pipeline right-of-way transit agreement with the Government of Turkey, Netoil was the originator of this pipeline project. 

The first tanker with BTC oil was lifted from the Ceyhan Terminal also on one of the hot summer days back in 2006. The first cargo of about 600,000 barrels of Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli crude, which had traveled 1,768 km across Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey through the BTC pipeline to Ceyhan, was loaded onto the tanker British Hawthorn and sailed away from the new Ceyhan Marine Terminal on 4 June 2006.

Incidentally, the first tanker lifting was officially celebrated by regional heads of state and government, senior executives of BTC owner companies and other dignitaries in a grand event held at Ceyhan exactly 12 years ago on 13 July.

All this is history now, but what is not history is that over the past 12 years BTC has been carrying hydrocarbons from the Caspian to its global customers safely, silently, reliably, unseen and with minimum risk.

Hailed as the major artery of energy export in the region, the pipeline has been critical in linking the rich energy reserves of the Caspian Sea to world markets. Azerbaijan recognizes the importance of the pipeline as strategic – it is the first direct link between the landlocked Caspian and the Mediterranean which has easy access to the markets all over the world.

Starting from the construction phase BTC has made a positive difference by bringing significant benefits to the region, by avoiding the Turkish Straits, it helps relieve the inevitable growth in oil related traffic and associated environmental risks, while creating substantial revenues for the transit countries, and continues to help strengthen economic and political links between Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and the West.

To date BTC has had strong safety and operational performance. Its efficiency and operational reliability has increased from 75% at the start up to the current level of 99.9%.

“The lifting of the 3 billionth barrel of oil from Ceyhan is a remarkable milestone achieved by BTC. Since the start of operations, the pipeline has demonstrated exceptional efficiency. It was built as a huge engineering achievement and after 12 years of safe, reliable and responsible operations it can be described as an extraordinary example of operational efficiency and world class delivery of One Team across the three countries. I can confidently say that BTC is one of the safest and environmentally sound pipeline operations ever undertaken anywhere in the world, – said Gary Jones, AGT Regional President.

“We all should take pride in BTC’s success story. When I say all I mean many thousands of people from the three countries who have been involved in the project from its start – the workforce, communities, companies, regional and international governments, partners and our own staff. This is truly a great facility in all respects and we are very proud of what it has achieved today.

“As a bridge laid across the three regional countries, BTC has strengthened the links between these nations, bringing tremendous positive changes to the communities and the people across the three counties. It gives me a great feeling of pride and honour to have such an asset in BP’s portfolio and I am sure many of you share this same feeling.”
On the occasion of the 3 billion barrels milestone, BP C&EA managed to talk to Yashar Latifov, SOCAR Vice President for field development, who used to lead a big section of BTC operations in the early years – also a fact of pride for BP as operator of BTC:

“BTC is a lot more than mega-project which was unprecedented at the time for its size, scale and technical complexity connecting the two seas and traversing across the two continents and three countries. It is a perfect example of what the transformational, value generating and sustainable cross-regional public-private partnership should look like.

“Today , as we celebrate the 3rd billion barrels transported through it , everyone is taking the BTC project for granted. An interesting fact is that among them is even Exxon-Mobil, our long term good partner indeed, which at the time of project conception torpedoed it by electing to ship its share of ACG oil by rail to the Black Sea , but last year, i.e. over 10 years later, having to buy into another founding party’s share of the BTC company and joining the BTC community of interest holders – can there be a better show-case that BTC is the Right Project executed and operated in the Right Way!

“Back in the early days of BTC conception and execution it was a legend, a dream turning into reality, a history in its making which could be made possible only thanks to unique combination of leadership, on the one part, of Azerbaijan Government which integrated the interests of the host countries and private producer entities and, on the other part, operating leadership and partnership of SOCAR and BP which happened to be the only foreign company that was capable of making big bold moves backed by sound commercial acumen and risk management skills. Today this reality is enabling to both monetize abundant regional hydrocarbon resources internationally through the most secure and safest artery and make good investments in sustainable exploration and production business growth in the whole region.

“Congratulations and Thank You to all who made the BTC happen and who continues to maintain it in a way that will benefit its numerous public and private stakeholders for many more years to come!”, – said Mr Latifov.
BTC Facts and figures

The 1768km BTC pipeline has the throughput capacity 1.2 million barrels of oil a day to be exported safely and responsibly from the Caspian without increasing tanker traffic through the already crowded Turkish Straits.

The pipeline uses 46/42/34” diameter pipe. It has eight pump stations and 98 valve stations across the three transit countries. The pipeline crosses several mountain ranges climbing to a high point of 2,830 metres before returning to sea level at Ceyhan, 3,000 roads, railways, and utility lines – both overground and underground – and more than 1,500 watercourses up to 500 metres wide in the case of the Ceyhan River in Turkey.

Considered as one of the biggest and most complex engineering endevours of its time in the world, BTC’s construction took four years to complete – it was sanctioned in July 2002 and was completed in May 2006. The construction activities involved 22,000 people at the peak (of which almost 80% were national employees), with more than 110 million man-hours spent, more than 200 million kilometers driven – equivalent to driving 10 times around the world, and 220,000 joints of pipe welded together.