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Thu 7 Aug 2008 04:45 PM

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Explosion on Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline

Fire continues to blaze on Turkish section of BTC pipeline forcing reduced oil production in Azerbaijan.

The BP led Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (TBC) pipeline, has been rocked by an explosion on a section of the pipeline in Refahiye in Erzincan province in remote Eastern Turkey, forcing a reduced rate of oil production in Azeri fields.

The fire erupted on Tuesday night and continues to burn. It has now been localized and contained, but the transportation of oil through the pipeline has been halted for the foreseeable future.

“We will continue to transport oil from Azerbaijan through three alternative routes, but obviously this will be at a much lesser rate since we have had to ramp-down production in the Azeri oil fields as a direct result of the fire,” said Murat Lecompte, external affairs director for BP in Turkey.

At present, westbound shipments from the Ceyhan port continue at an undeterred rate with the help of oil stockpiled at the terminal. Quite how long such export volumes will be able to continue is unknown.

“Sabotage is unlikely, but I couldn’t tell you either way until the fire has been fully extinguished and a thorough investigation carried out. We just have to wait and see,” said Lecompte, speaking of the cause of the fire.

The US-backed 1768 kilometre pipeline, opened in 2006, allows the west ready access to oil from Azerbaijan's Caspian Sea fields, estimated to hold the world's third-largest reserves, and bypass Russia and Iran in the process.

A total of 10 million barrels of crude oil is required to fill the pipeline.

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