The 1,768 km Baku – Tbilisi – Ceyhan (BTC) Pipeline carries crude oil from offshore Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli Oil Field in the Caspian Sea to the Turkish coast of the Mediterranean, from where the crude is further shipped via tankers to European markets.
The pipeline route passes from the Sangachal Terminal near Baku through Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey to the Ceyhan Marine Terminal on the Turkish coast of the Mediterranean, with 443 km of the pipeline running through Azerbaijan, 249 km through Georgia, and 1,076 km through Turkey.
The pipeline has a 42 inch diameter throughout most of Azerbaijan and Turkey, with a 46 inch diameter in Georgia. The pipeline’s diameter reduces to 34 inches for the last downhill section to the Ceyhan Marine Terminal.
The BTC Pipeline, which has been widely referred to as the ‘pipeline of the century’, has the capacity to transport 1 MMbbl/d of oil – approximately 1.5 per cent of global total oil consumption.Article continues below…
The Baku – Tbilisi – Ceyhan Pipeline Company was formed to construct, own and operate the pipeline in 2002. There are currently 11 shareholders in the BP-managed company, including BP (30.1 per cent), AzBTC (25 per cent), Chevron (8.9 per cent), Statoil (8.71 per cent), TPAO (6.53 per cent), ENI (5 per cent), Total (5 per cent), Itochu (3.4 per cent), INPEX (2.5 per cent), ConocoPhillips (2.5 per cent), and Hess (2.36 per cent).
Construction on the project began in 2003 and reached completion in 2005.
Constructing Lot C
In 2002, a joint venture between Punj Lloyd and Limak Construction was contracted to construct ‘Lot C’, 332 km of the Turkish section of the BTC Pipeline project. Punj Lloyd was also awarded construction of a 53 km, 42 and 46 inch diameter section in Georgia, a twin pipeline that extends from Bakuriani to the Georgian and Turkish border. Other major companies involved in the construction of the BTC Pipeline included Consolidated Contractors Co., Spiecapag, Petrofac, BOTAS, and Bechtel.
Lot C involved construction of an approximately 208 km, 42 inch diameter pipeline and an approximately 124 km, 34 inch diameter pipeline from Pumping Station No. 4 near Sivas to the tank terminal at Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea.
Punj Lloyd President and Chief Executive Officer for the Middle East, Africa and Commonwealth of Independent States Atul Jain says that Lot C was the toughest geographical section of the BTC Pipeline, with 85 per cent of the route in the slopes, high elevation, and rocky and environmentally sensitive areas.
“The Punj Lloyd team traversed through extremely steep slopes and mountains, and crossed six major rivers, and seven major roads and railways,” says Mr Jain.
“The pipeline route in Turkey passed through very dramatic terrain – over the lofty and rocky Taurus Mountains, which have an elevation difference of 2,078 m and an alignment of 39°; through 70 km of forests, traversing ecologically sensitive areas; and 587 m across the Ceyhan River.
“The Georgian section – with its high altitude, steep, 26° slopes in the South Caucasian Mountains, and snow-clad terrain – was no less intimidating either.”
To compound the challenge, the pipeline passed through a seismic zone, the Cokak Geographical Fault, which Mr Jain says made health, safety, and environmental aspects of paramount concern.
Mr Jain says “For safe construction on precarious slopes at dangerous heights, the Punj Lloyd project team adopted several special measures. Customised training was imparted to all team members, and they were permitted to work onsite only upon successful completion of this training. All equipment operating on slopes were anchored from the top to prevent any accident. Barbed fencing and retaining walls were raised to protect the earthwork. A main camp was also established at Kosreli, in addition to four mobile camps at Andirin, Goksun, Yesilkent, and Orenshire, to provide comfortable living and working facilities.”
A diverse project team
The Punj Lloyd project team did not comprise engineers alone, and for the environmentally sensitive area within the seismic zone, its team of over 2,450 personnel required specialists such as ecologists, botanists, zoologists, ornithologists, archaeologists, soil experts, paleo-seismologists, landscape architects, geologists, and plant taxonomists.
“Together, we cared for indigenous flora and fauna, unearthed archaeological relics, and reinstated rivers, while successfully delivering the project and winning awards and accolades,” says Mr Jain. “We recorded 4.2 million man hours without a day away from work, and travelled more than 15 million kilometres at site.”
Mr Jain says that Punj Lloyd also has a policy of leaving behind a legacy of trained and experienced manpower wherever it works, and that 90 per cent of the local labour was engaged to form part of its workforce on the BTC Pipeline.
“In line with our corporate policy, we hired all our unskilled workers from villages within 50 km of the pipeline route. Priority for recruitment was also given to the local community for skilled, semi-skilled, and disabled personnel, thereby generating employment, training and providing job prospects to a large section of the local population along the right of way,” he says.
Punj Lloyd’s programmes were aimed at enhancing the lives of the local communities along the RoW. 180 access roads were used to reroute the villagers from the construction site and to ensure their daily routine was not disrupted.
Special measures for environmental preservation
For its careful environmental monitoring and management on Lot C during all phases of the project, Punj Lloyd received the Five Star Award from the British Safety Council, as well as OHSAS 18001, ISO 14001, and ISO 9001 certification from the DNV.
Many special measures were adopted due to the pipeline route’s location in a seismic zone.
“52 km of the RoW needed bio-restoration,” says Mr Jain. “This is significantly longer than most other projects.
“One of the remarkable aspects of this project was the use of scientiﬁc tools to plan and demarcate environmental activities from each other, the most significant being the application of the Universal Soil Loss Equation for identifying the erosion potential of the slopes reinstatement and bio-restoration.
“For this, our ecological and agricultural experts conducted detailed tree enumeration and shrub density estimation during the staking survey. A database was prepared for the number of trees and species to be planted. Local nurseries and the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Forest were contacted for offset planting requirements. These seeds and saplings were carefully grown and nurtured in greenhouses until they were relocated on the RoW.
“To reinstate steep slopes and cross slopes, scientiﬁc erosion control techniques were adopted. Measures included slope breakers, jute matting, and hydro-seeding or germinating some species of plants in water. These were applied in various combinations integrated with the bio-restoration requirements, depending on the site conditions.”
Mr Jain says that Punj Lloyd was constantly aware of being sensitive to the environment it was operating in, whether it was diligently leaving the rich historical, archaeological, and cultural heritage of Turkey untouched by re-routing the pipeline near the world-famous Meryemcil Castle, or through the protection, reinstatement, transplantation, and rejuvenation of flora and fauna affected during the laying of the pipeline.
The ‘pipeline of the century’
The BTC Pipeline was first conceived as a major component of the East-West Energy Corridor Project, which aimed to transport Caucasian and Central Asian energy resources to western markets through safe and alternative routes, strengthening security, peace and economic development in the region.
In a 2007 interview with Turkish Daily News, Georgian ambassador Grigol Mgaloblishvili said “The BTC is an extremely important project, not just for Georgia and the participating countries, but for the whole of Europe.
“This project marks the beginning of a new era in the region that precludes the possibility of anyone monopolising transit routes for Caspian energy resources. Diversification of transporting Caspian hydrocarbons to the world market is the greatest achievement.”
In September 2010, as the BTC Pipeline safely transported its 1 billionth barrel of oil, BP Azerbaijan President Rashid Javanshir also highlighted the positive impact the project has had since its completion.
“We are proud to say that in addition to [the BTC Pipeline’s] main benefit of relieving the growth of oil tankers through the Turkish Straits, BTC has been a source of major benefit to its neighbours along its length – approximately 730,000 people in 550 communities – through numerous jobs it has offered, tens of millions of dollars it has spent in sustainable development projects, and opportunities it has provided for their economic growth,” said Mr Javanshir.
As the BTC Pipeline continues to safely, efficiently and reliably transport oil, it maintains its reputation, aptly described by then BP Chief Executive Lord John Browne at the BTC’s inauguration ceremony in 2006, “BTC is the first great engineering project of the 21st century.”