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BTC Pipeline: Azerbaijan

Technology and Environment

Crude oil that is to traverse the 1760 km Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline will be extracted from the Caspian Sea's vast Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli (ACG) oil fields, which are estimated to hold over 5 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Phase 1 of the $3.6 billion pipeline project will see 188 kilometers of undersea pipe laid at depths up to 180 meters deep to transport the extracted oil from an offshore drilling platform to an expanded Sangachal terminal near Baku. By 2010 the BTC pipeline is expected reach a peak volume of 1 million barrels per day.

Photo of offshore rigs
The Baku oil rigs generate vast amounts of crude.
Azerbaijan's offshore oil fields were first developed by the Soviets, and the concentration of oil industry activities around Baku has left its mark along its coastline. Environmental groups point to outdated production practices and aging machinery as factors in the high pollution levels to be found along Azerbaijan's coastline. One marine species that has suffered from both pollution and poaching is the Caspian Sea sturgeon, the source of the Caspian's renowned caviar. Caviar is an important export product for several Caspian nations and is the source of as much as 90% of the world's caviar, but sturgeon numbers have declined steadily over the past 20 years. Scientists have blamed high pollution levels in the Caspian for weakening the immune defenses of Caspian Sea sturgeon and contaminating key spawning areas such as the Kura River.

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