Accessibility links

Breaking News

Factbox: Caspian Sea Hydrocarbons

A pipeline carrying crude from an oil field in Kazakhstan to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiisk (AFP) With increasing competition for energy resources, the Caspian Sea has become an area of renewed interest for governments and energy companies. China -- with its rapidly expanding energy needs -- the United States, and Europe, among others, are all investing in the region. The recent surge in energy prices has shown the paramount importance of supply and transporting hydrocarbons to international markets.


* The littoral states of the Caspian Sea are Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, and Azerbaijan.

* The landlocked Caspian Sea holds a projected 3 percent of the world's energy supplies.

* The U.S. Energy Information Administration has estimated that the Caspian could hold between 17 billion and 33 billion barrels of proven oil. ("Proven reserves" are defined by energy experts to be 90 percent probable.)

* Other experts estimate the Caspian could hold "possible reserves" of up to 233 billion barrels of oil. ("Possible reserves" are considered to be 50 percent probable.)

* By comparison, Saudi Arabia has 261 billion barrels of oil and the United States 23 billion.

* The five Caspian countries have an estimated 170.4 trillion cubic feet (4.83 trillion cubic meters) of proven natural-gas reserves and possible reserves of 293 trillion cubic feet (8.30 trillion cubic meters).

* Tapping the Caspian oil may prove problematic: at least seven trial wells drilled by Western consortiums in Azerbaijan's sector of the sea since 1998 have failed to yield oil in commercially viable quantities.

Major Projects

Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline (BTC)

* The pipeline runs from Baku, Azerbaijan, through Georgia, to the Turkish seaport of Ceyhan.

* By 2010, the pipeline is expected to pump 1 million barrels of oil a day.

* The pipeline has been developed by an international consortium of 11 partners, of which energy giant British Petroleum (BP) is the largest stakeholder. BP has led the design and construction phases.

* The Georgian section of the pipeline was inaugurated in October 2005 and the Azerbaijani section in May 2005. The first oil is scheduled to reach Ceyhan by the end of 2005.

* Civil-rights groups in Georgia and abroad have criticized the BTC for damaging roads and irrigation systems. There has been much concern for Georgia's Borzhomi national park, through which the BTC runs for some 25 kilometers. Others have raised concerns questioning the safety of building such a pipeline in a highly active seismic zone.

* The pipeline also runs close to the line separating the forces of Azerbaijan and Armenia. Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding territory inside Azerbaijan have been under ethnic Armenian control since a six-year war against Azerbaijan ended with a 1994 cease-fire. The enclave's status remains unresolved, and tensions remain high with both sides regularly exchanging fire.

Azeri, Chirag, And Gunashli (ACG) Fields

* The field, 120 kilometers off the coast of Azerbaijan, holds at least 5.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil. The field was discovered and developed during the Soviet era

* Production began in 1997, through pipelines to Supsa, Georgia, and to Novorossiysk, Russia.

* The main operator is British Petroleum (BP), which holds a 34.13 percent stake in a consortium that includes Azerbaijani's state oil company.

The Shah Deniz Gas Field

* The gas and condensate field lies some 100 kilometers south of Baku.

* It holds an estimated 400 billion cubic meters of gas reserves.

* The field is expected to deliver up to 7 billion cubic meters of gas per year by 2005.

South Caucasus Pipeline

* This new pipeline will carry gas from Shah Deniz to customers in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, and other countries. It will run alongside the BTC and be linked to the Turkish gas-distribution network.

* The pipeline will span 690 kilometers and will be capable of carrying up to 7 billion cubic meters of gas each year by 2006.

The Caspian Pipeline Consortium

* The 1,580 kilometer pipeline runs from Kazakhstan's Tengiz field to Novorossiisk on Russia's Black Sea coast and is used for the export of both Russian and Kazakh crude.

* When commissioned in late 2001, it had an initial throughput capacity of 28 million tons per year; this is to be increased to 67 million tons.


* Kazakhstan's Kashagan offshore field is believed to hold between 7 billion-9 billion barrels of reserves, making it the single largest discovered over the past 30 years and the fourth or fifth largest in the world.

* Commercial production is scheduled to begin in 2008, and by 2015 Kashagan could produce up to 56 million tons per year.

Dividing The Sea

The division of the Caspian's energy resources is still a major issue, in particular the conundrum of solving the sea's legal status. States and lawyers disagree as to whether the Caspian can be considered a lake or a sea. That definition is crucially important for maritime law on how the resources are divvied up.