Aug 14 2008

Russian bombing raid near the BTC Pipeline

by in Uncategorized

Over the past week, Georgian officials have made several claims that the Russians were bombing an area through which the BTC and South Caucasus Pipelines run. An article in today’s edition of the Wall Street Journal seems to confirm these claims:

A neat row of large craters in a field in southern Georgia strongly suggests that Russia dropped bombs near oil and gas pipelines bringing fuel to the West.

Georgian officials say Russian warplanes dropped bombs in an early Saturday raid close to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which pumps some 850,000 barrels of crude a day — or 1% of total global oil demand — from Azerbaijan to the Mediterranean. The bombs narrowly missed the line, but one exploded just 10 feet away from it.

If the Georgian claims are correct, it isn’t clear whether Russia intended to score a direct hit or merely give the West a scare about the security of its energy supply.

Zurab Janjgava, general director of Georgian Oil & Gas Corp., said he believes Russia wanted to blow up the pipeline. “These were pinpointed attacks,” he said in an interview.

Russia has categorically denied attempting to bomb pipelines on Georgian soil. Georgian officials were unable to furnish definitive proof the craters were caused by Russian bombs.

But the physical evidence of a recent air attack, witnessed by a reporter, is compelling.

The line of craters left by the alleged Russian attacks runs through the middle of a hilly, mostly uninhabited plain some 15 miles south of Tbilisi, near the town of Rustavi. The area lacks military or even human targets. The only sign of civilization is a small farm surrounded by haystacks and grazing herds of cows and sheep. The 45 craters — each some 60 feet across — scar the hillside like footprints left by a giant.

Close by lies the BTC pipeline, operated by British oil company BP PLC and buried at a depth of nearly six feet. It is identified only by small markers spaced out at one-kilometer (0.62-mile) intervals along the pipeline’s route.

Mr. Janjgava said another raid Tuesday appeared to have been aimed at a second pipeline, known as Baku-Supsa, which brings Azerbaijan oil from the Caspian Sea to a terminal in Georgia’s Black Sea town of Supsa.

The craters are concentrated in an area close to where BTC and the Baku-Supsa line intersect, near BTC’s 15-mile marker. There were no other reported Russian attacks for many miles around.

The raids suggest Russia wasn’t only aiming to humiliate its neighbor militarily but also to damage its reputation as an energy corridor.

The outbreak of hostilities in Georgia and vulnerability of the energy infrastructure there certainly does not bode well for any future projects such as the Nabucco and Trans-Caspian gas pipelines.


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