Azerbaijan Begins Oil Exports Through Russia

MOSCOW (Xinhua/ Itar Tass)–Azerbaijan resumed its oil exports Saturday after a suspension of 65 years–with crude oil beginning to flow across the Russian border to reach the world market.

The northern pipeline–which was opened at 1 p.m. Moscow time–links Baku and Novorossisk via Grozny and Tikhoretsk–said an Interfax news service report from Baku.

A ceremony to mark the beginning of Azeri oil exports via the northern route was held near the village of Shirvanovka–the end point of the Azeri section of the pipeline.

President of the State Oil Company of the Azeri Republic–SOCAR Natik Aliyev described the event as a special occasion.

"Today," Aliyev told the ceremony–"Azerbaijan resumes the export of oil to Western markets after a break of 65 years–and resumes it in the most profitable and reliable way: by pipeline."

Azeri oil had previously been exported to the world market along the Baku-Batumi pipeline–which was shut down in 1932. The Baku-Novorossisk pipeline is 1,411 kilometers long–and its Azeri section–including a new line from a coastal terminal in Sangachaly near Baku to Sumgait–is 260 kilometers long.

The date for beginning the oil transportation was reportedly delayed for more than once over repairs on the 153-kilometer Chechen section–which was completed only recently.

The first 40,000 metric tons of Azeri export oil–to be shipped overseas at the rate of 2,500 tons a day–were bought by Russia’s Lukoil company at $130 per ton.

Lukoil company purchased the oil under an international bidding procedure. According to the Interfax report–SOCAR plans export 120,000 tons of crude oil before the end of the year.

The early–low-volume oil output of Azerbaijan’s Caspian offshore fields is pumped to the Novorossiisk port terminal for export.

Azeri President Gaidar Aliyev said in an interview with Itar-Tass that the launching of the transportation project was a momentous event. He stressed that Oct. 25 opened Azerbaijan’s oil exports to Western markets–through the most reliable–pipeline route.

After pumping an initial 71 tons oil into the pipeline in early February–it was ready for transportation which however was twice delayed because of damages of Chechnya’s 153-kilometer arm.

Oct. 25 was set as the starting date during the last month’s visit to the republic of delegates of Transneft–a Russian company in charge of transportation of the Azeri oil through Russia. Azerbaijan’s International Operating Company–which develops three Caspian oil fields – Azeri–Chirag and Gyuneshli – oversees the oil transportation to the Azeri-Russian border–as laid down by an inter-governmental accord signed on Jan. 18 by Aliyev and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.

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