Back in September, celebrations at the Heydar Aliyev Center marked the groundbreaking for the Southern Corridor, BP’s Shah Deniz 2 project that will deliver gas from Azerbaijan to Italy. As the sponsor’s representative at the November meeting at the Hyatt’s Baku room on Thursday 6 November, BP Vice President of Shah Deniz 2 Ewan Drummond took the podium, and expressed the enormity of the task ahead.
“The scale of the challenge and its complexity cannot be underestimated. We have seven governments with an active interest, 11 companies that hold shares in one or several parts of the chain, and 11 gas purchasers we’ve signed deals with to meet their customer needs.”
In length, the Southern Corridor is a 3500km gas chain from the Caspian Sea to the Adriatic. En route to Italy it will supply Georgia, Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria. The result will triple the capacity of the existing Sangachal terminal onshore, Azerbaijan’s oil and gas processing hub for oil and gas export, eventually providing 16 billion cubic metres of gas every year.
The project demands a vast network of human work force and local knowledge. It is creating 30,000 jobs including 10,000 in Azerbaijan and 2,000 in Georgia. As well as being an alternative energy supply for Europe, the Southern Corridor will have a positive impact on the economies of all the countries along its stretch.
“It’s breaking new grounds as a pipeline and a geopolitical project,” said Ewan.
For those who’d like a recap, in 1999 BP discovered what proved to be one of the world’s largest gas reserves, Shah Deniz. Shah Deniz housed 40 trillion cubic feet of gas – how it earned its name meaning ‘king of the sea’.
The initial project, Shah Deniz 1, was for a 700km pipeline, the South Caucasus pipeline, through Azerbaijan and Georgia to the Turkey border.
Ewan described: “The challenges in those days were considerable, but despite that, Shah Deniz stage 1 was developed in only seven years, and became operational in 2006. Since then it’s proved a secure and reliable supply of gas, to Georgian and Turkish customers. This is a track record which gives confidence to the government and our customers.”
BP’s challenge with Shah Deniz 2 is to complete Shah Deniz 1 virtually all over again, but on a much larger scale than anything they’ve done previously. They are using world class technologies and bringing in their most experienced managers.
Ewan has been with BP for 30 years and his role is to ensure that the corridor is completed safely, on time, and within the budget: “We must ensure the significant political support we have supporting us, BP and partners, is harnessed to deliver these projects on time,” said Ewan.
“The success of the corridor requires everybody to play a part,” Ewan summarised. “It’s like a chain. A chain is only as going to be as good as its weakest link, and this truly is a chain of projects.”
Deputy Ambassador Adrian Lee represented the British Embassy this month. “The big thing his week,” he said, “was yesterdays visit of the Minister for Europe David Lidington. We’ve had a lot of commercially focused visits recently, so the minister was keen this time to give a different focus – on the Ngorno Karabakh, and in particular the humanitarianism issues of that, so he visited a couple of IDP settlements, students at the diplomatic academy, and political leaders about the prospects for a political solution, and I think that was very well received by our hosts.”
Last weekend and on Monday the British Council has a very successful fair for visiting British universities. This included a speed dating event with 45 Azeri and British institutions. Adrian commented: “It goes to show that the interest there is from both sides for greater links in education.”
Looking ahead, December will see the Bakutel exhibition: “For the first time we will have a UK pavilion, six British companies, and we also hope to be able to tie that in with another visit from the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy Charles Hendry.”
Watch this space.
This month’s meeting was hosted by BBG Deputy Chairman Morgan Phillips. If you would like to attend a meeting or wish to become a sponsor, please contact Chairman John Patterson, firstname.lastname@example.org