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New Pipeline will bypass the Bosporus but involve Russia 16 mars 2007

Posted by Acturca in Energy / Energie, Russia / Russie, South East Europe / Europe du Sud-Est, Turkey / Turquie.
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The New York Times (USA), March 16, 2007 Friday, Section C; Column 1; Pg. 2

By Andrew E. Kramer, Moscow

Russia, Greece and Bulgaria signed an agreement on Thursday to build an oil pipeline bypassing the crowded Bosporus in Turkey, a long-debated project that will increase oil supplies to Europe but give Russia control over an important piece of the Continent’s energy infrastructure. 

The planned 175-mile pipeline would run from Burgas in Bulgaria, on the Black Sea, to Alexandroupolis in Greece, near the Mediterranean.

The intention would be for tankers carrying oil from the Russian terminal at Novorossiysk on the Black Sea to offload cargoes in Bulgaria, rather than travel fully loaded through the narrow and crowded waterway. On the other side, tankers would pick up the oil in Greece and carry it on to world markets.

The pipeline would allow companies to ship more oil from Russia and the Caspian Sea region via the Black Sea to international markets; the quantities are now restricted by the capacity of the strait to handle tanker traffic safely.

 »It’s like floating through people’s living rooms, » Cliff Kupchan, an energy analyst and director at the Eurasia Group, said in a telephone interview from Washington. From the decks of ships passing through the strait, he said,  »you can literally see into people’s homes. »

 »There is a real problem, » he continued.  »It is narrow and windy. »

In rough weather, tankers sometimes wait days for clearance from the Turkish Coast Guard to pass through the Bosporus, considered one of less than a dozen oil choke points in the world. The Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, a bottleneck for Saudi, Iranian and Iraqi oil, is the most famous.

Various Bosporus bypass pipeline options have been in the works for years as oil production ramps up in the Caspian Sea basin. The Burgas-to-Alexandroupolis route was first proposed in the early 1990s.

The $1.3 billion pipeline, when complete, will compete with the American-backed Baku-to-Ceyhan route, which avoids Russia.

Under the deal signed Thursday, a consortium of three Russian oil and oil pipeline companies will own 51 percent of the pipeline venture; Greece and Bulgaria will divide the rest.

Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, at the signing ceremony Thursday in Athens, praised the accord as allowing an overall rise in exports from Russia and Central Asia and increasing energy supplies.  »The implementation of this project increases stability not only for the Balkans but for the entire world, » Mr. Putin said in remarks carried on Russian television.  »It provides the possibility to expand supplies of energy to world markets. »

He said the pipeline, transporting 600,000 barrels a day, would be filled with oil from new projects in Russia and Central Asia without diverting supplies from other export channels.

The pipeline is of moderate size by world standards. The Trans Alaska Pipeline, by comparison, has a capacity of two million barrels a day but now typically carries about half that.

Still, in the strategic game of energy-pipeline placements in Europe and Asia, where European nations and the United States are trying to increase oil exports while creating routes that loosen Russia’s grip on the trade, a kind of slow-motion chess already spanning a decade, a Russian hand on the new pipeline is seen as a mixed blessing for Europe.

While bolstering overall supply, it increases European nations’ reliance on energy exported through Russian channels. Russia already supplies about a third of Europe’s oil and 40 percent of its natural gas.

For Moscow, it provides another route around troublesome pipeline routes through two former Soviet republics, Ukraine and Belarus.

 »There’s an element of a double-edged sword here, » Mr. Kupchan, the energy analyst, said.
Photo: President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, left, with the Greek prime minister, Kostas Karamanlis, in Athens yesterday before an agreement to build a 175-mile pipeline was signed by their two countries and Bulgaria. (Photo by Mikhail Klimentyev / Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)Map of Bulgaria highlighting Burgas: An oil route between Burgas, on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, and Alexandroupolis, on the Aegean.

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