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Azerbaijan accuses Armenia of attempted cluster rocket attack on oil and gas pipelines

The BP-operated Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline running to Ceyhan in Turkey, and the South Caucasus pipeline, that runs parallel to it, skirt the conflict zone. Note, the Nabucco pipeline plan is defunct, replaced by the SGC scheme.
The BP-operated Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline running to Ceyhan in Turkey, and the South Caucasus pipeline, that runs parallel to it, skirt the conflict zone. Note, the Nabucco pipeline plan is defunct, replaced by the SGC scheme.

Azerbaijan has accused Armenia of on October 6 firing a cluster rocket at part of the BP-operated Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline and the South Caucasus gas pipeline (SCP) during the 11th day of the conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh breakaway enclave. Armenia's defence ministry immediately rejected the accusation as “outright lies”.

The Prosecutor-General's Office of Azerbaijan said that the claimed late evening attack on the pipelines running through the country’s central-western Yevlakh region—which it alleged saw a rocket that ejects more than 300 cluster bomblets land 10 metres away from the BTC—left the infrastructure unscathed as a result of measures taken by the Azerbaijani Army, but that a civilian was killed. The SCP is a crucial link in Azerbaijan’s ambition to in November start exporting oil to the European Union along the new Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) of interconnected pipelines with a terminus in southern Italy.

"Azerbaijan's reports of Armenian troops' attempt to strike the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline are outright lies," Armenian Defence Ministry press secretary Shushan Stepanian wrote on her Facebook page. "We have repeatedly said that we do not view oil and gas infrastructure as our target."

Main oil export route

The 1mn b/d BTC, which is entirely buried, transits Caspian Sea Azeri light crude oil via Georgia to the Ceyhan port and oil export hub on the southeastern Mediterranean coast of Turkey, a close ally to Baku that is aggressively backing Azerbaijan’s attempt to reclaim the territory within the internationally unrecognised self-proclaimed republic of Nagorno-Karabakh controlled by ethnic Armenians. The BTC is by far the main route for Azerbaijan’s oil exports, carrying about 80% of the crude bound for abroad per day.

The 25bn cubic metre (bcm) SCP line carries gas to Turkey under two contracts: 6.6 bcm/year via Turkey's domestic transit grid and 6 bcm/year via the 31 bcm/year TANAP pipeline, all supplied from the BP-operated Shah Deniz gas field. The SCP also supplies gas to Georgia.

In November, the SCP and TANAP lines are scheduled to start carrying up to 10 bcm/year of additional gas to be fed into the 10 bcm/year Trans Adriatic Pipeline, or TAP, running from the Turkey-Greece border through Greece, Albania and across the Adriatic to Italy.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone lies just 30-40 km (19-25 miles) from the BTC and SCP pipelines. 

British oil major BP said following the claimed attacks on the pipelines that it was looking to beef up security at its facilities in Azerbaijan.

"We are especially worried about yesterday's reports of a missile attack, which was intercepted and destroyed by Azerbaijan's air defence systems in the vicinity of BTC and SCP export pipelines," BP said in a statement, cited by Reuters.

"While the security of all assets which BP operates on behalf of the Azerbaijan government and our partners is provided by the Azerbaijani government, we continue to work closely with the relevant authorities in an effort to take necessary measures to provide the protection of our personnel, operations and assets."