Georgia, Azerbaijan Mark 20 Years Since Launch of Baku-Supsa Pipeline

TBILISI - Georgia Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili with his Azeri counterpart Artur Rasizade on Monday marked the 20th year anniversary of the construction of USD 556 million Baku-Supsa pipeline.

The 833km long British Petroleum (BP) operated pipeline, also known as the Western Route Export Pipeline (WREP), has the capacity to transport 145,000 barrels of oil a day. It runs from Azerbaijan to the Georgia’s Black Sea terminal of Supsa.

Ground was originally broken on the pipeline on March 8, 1996 by then-President of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev. and former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. The trilateral contract was signed between Azerbaijan International Operating Company, SOCAR and the Government of Georgia.

Kvirikashvili was quick to point out that the Baku-Supsa pipeline ushered in a new era and provided a guarantee of stability and peace across the South Caucasus.

"Twenty years on, we can witness the rational continuation of the extraordinarily important efforts that were made to launch the South Energy Corridor. This all started with the Baku-Supsa pipeline - the project that tapped into Georgia's transit potential. It was the main catalyst in helping to promote Georgia as an important and reliable transit country,” Kvirikashvili said.

Azerbaijan’s Rasizade also pointed to the importance of the Baku-Supsa, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan projects as strategic projects that are critical to promoting cooperation between Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Representatives from BP and the ambassadors of other partner countries also attended the event.

The Baku-Supsa strategic corridor runs through the center of Georgia, where an ongoing dispute between Tbilisi and Moscow over Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia threatens the security of the pipeline.

On August 12, 2008, BP shut down the Baku-Supsa pipeline as a precautionary measure, after Tbilisi informed them that Russian fighter jets had targeted a BP-operated key oil pipeline during a bombing raid at the height of the Russian-Georgian War.

In July 2015, Russian troops began demarcating an internationally unrecognized so-border between government-controlled Georgia and South Ossetia. They pushed forward the border forward to a small village known as Orchosani.

The move allowed the Russians to take control over a short length of the pipeline. While conceding that the pipeline might need to be diverted in the future, Azerbaijan’s oil and gas giant, SOCAR, reportedly denied the need for any short=term solution.

By Tamar Svanidze
Edited by Nicholas Waller

17 May 2016 09:14