Chevron Blasts Turkey’s Approach to Pipeline

ALMATY (Reuters)–The Chevron Corporation–part of a project to ship Kazakh crude to the Mediterranean via the Bosphorous–replied on Tuesday to Turkey’s plans to reduce tanker traffic in the strait–saying that oil deliveries would be safe.

"We are confident that we will be able to work with all the countries of the region to find solution to the very valid concerns of the Turkish government about safety and environment in the Bosphorous," Phil Meek–head of Kazakhstan’s subsidiary Chevron Munaigas–told a news conference.

Chevron holds a 15 percent stake in the multinational Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) which plans to build a 940-mile oil pipeline from Kazakhstan’s huge oil field in the west of the Central Asian state to Russia’s Black Sea port of Novorossiisk.

Kazakh oil will then be delivered by tankers to the Mediterranean Sea via the Bosphorous strait.

But Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem said last month that traffic in the busy strait bisecting the city of Istanbul would be reduced.

"Turkey will restrict the transport of oil from the Black Sea with the aim of reducing the traffic which causes great danger in the straits," state-run Anatolian news agency quoted the minister as saying. "Let everyone know this and make their decision accordingly," Cem said.

European Energy Commissioner Christos Papoutsis cautioned last Thursday against limiting oil supply routes from Central Asia. "From the political and strategic point of view–it is much better to have more than one route and not to exclude Russia," he said.

Meek insisted that future oil deliveries would be safe.

"This pipeline route was chosen five years ago because it is the most economically sound and safe pipeline. That was the case five years ago and is still the case today," he said.

Scheduled completion of the CPC pipeline–whose construction will start early next year–is in early 2001–with first oil expected in mid-2001.

Some Kazakh media have speculated that Turkey would restrict shipmen’s of oil by CPC because its leadership prefers Caspian oil to be transported to the Mediterranean via the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline from Azerbaijan.

Meek said that other regional pipelines would not influence CPC plans to build the proposed pipeline.

"Other pipeline routes will have no major impact since they are a few years away," he said.

He added: "Chevron is supportive of multiple pipelines from the Caspian."

His opinion coincided with that of visiting US Ambassador at large Stephen Sestanovich.

"We reviewed our common efforts to make the Baku-Ceyhan a pipeline in the East-West corridor a reality," Sestanovich told a news conference after meeting Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Meek said some other regional oil might be transported via the CPC pipeline on the initial stage before it reaches its projected capacity of 1.34 million barrels per day "sometime after 2010."

Initial capacity of the $2.2 billion CPC pipeline is estimated at 560,000 barrels per day.

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