The Baku Ceyhan Campaign
About the Baku-Ceyhan campaign
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- What is planned

- Colonialism

- Human rights and conflict

- Social development

- Climate change

- Environmental impacts

- BP's pipeline record

- The companies and financial institutions involved

- Map of the project

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Campaign publications

BP’s pipeline record

BP has a 90-year history of running pipelines, concerns that exist over the BTC pipeline can be examined by looking at the experience of BP’s three biggest existing pipeline systems: the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS, also known as Alyeska after the operating consortium) in the USA, the Forties Pipeline System (FPS) in Scotland, and the Oleoducto Central pipeline system (OCENSA) in Colombia.

This is the approach of our book, ‘Some Common Concerns’.

Lessons from BP's past:

Will Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey benefit from the BTC pipeline?
Will people living along the pipeline benefit?
What disturbances have there been during construction of the pipeline?
Has the pipeline exacerbated conflict?
How safe will the pipeline system be for the environment?
How safe will the pipeline system be for those who operate it?

Will Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey benefit from the BTC pipeline?

Azerbaijan regards the projected oil and gas revenues as a source of great future prosperity. These riches are projected to come to the government in the form of taxes on the profits of the foreign oil companies, royalties on the resources they extract, and a share of the resources themselves. In Azerbaijan, for example, oil-related revenues currently make up about 50% of the government's annual revenues. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey all hope for substantial incomes from transit payments for pumping oil and gas in pipelines through their countries.

Yet BP’s practice in other countries casts doubt on the extent to which the host governments would benefit from the BTC pipeline.

Head of BP John Browne made his name on the Forties Pipeline System in the North Sea, coming to prominence in the1980s by skilfully enabling BP to avoid paying tax to the UK government. Throughout the last 30 years of the Forties pipeline, BP has continually lobbied UK governments to lower the tax on North Sea oil extraction. Today, the North Sea has the lowest taxation of any oil province in the world: royalties and petroleum revenue tax were abolished for fields developed after 1982 and 1993 respectively.

BP followed the same pattern of driving down taxes, and thereby depriving the host states of revenue, in Alaska and Colombia. In the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, BP was found several times (including in two court cases where BP settled out of court) to have overcharged transport fees and underpaid royalties through inaccurate accounting. In the OCENSA pipeline in Colombia, BP has repeatedly threatened to disinvest from the country so as to improve its contract terms, and it succeeded in obtaining a reduction of the state share of production from 50% to 30%.

From BP's point of view, much of the pre-construction phase of the BTC pipeline involved persuading the Azeri, Georgian and Turkish governments to lower the taxes they wish to impose on the project. Indeed, BP's withholding of a commitment to BTC up until late 1999 was linked to the effort to drive down payments to the host governments for the pipelines system. And not only have the governments' incomes been forced down, Turkey has guaranteed the construction cost for its section of the BTC pipeline - in effect writing a blank cheque which could amount to billions of dollars, to cover delays and overspends.

There is no reason to suppose that BP will not keep pressurising the governments of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey throughout the lifetime of the project – the next 40 years or more – to reduce taxes on BTC, just as it has on its other pipeline systems. Georgian, Turkish and especially Azeri hopes for prosperity need to be considered with this in mind.

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Would people living along the pipeline benefit?

As with host states, it is instructive to look at how communities have fared in BP's other pipelines. Between 1995 and 1996, during the pre-construction and construction phases of the 837 kilometre (520 mile) OCENSA oil pipeline in Colombia, BP negotiated compensation packages with the peasants across whose smallholdings the pipeline passes.

Compensation was offered for a strip of farmland just 12.5 metres (41 feet) wide. But soil erosion caused by the pipeline construction blocked springs and diverted streams, rendering land infertile. The military imposed a civilian-free corridor and a curfew along the pipeline which blocked locals' access to their land and, for some, their homes. As a result of the environmental damage and the security presence, a corridor of up to 200 metres wide has in fact been taken away from landowners. Overall, instead of having a narrow strip of land temporarily disturbed by construction, some peasants have lost the use of their entire holdings, have left their homes and drifted to the outskirts of the city of Medellin where they are now living in dire poverty.

Today, six years after the construction of the OCENSA pipeline, lawyers working on behalf of 200 families are still trying to get compensation from BP for this disruption of their lives and communities. BP’s attitude is that the issues should be resolved by the courts, even though the communities involved have scant resources to put into a legal case.

BP often talks of the benefits to local people of employment during construction. It makes no mention, however, of the possible long-term dis-benefits, such as those that the farmers in Zaragoza and Segovia provinces of Colombia are experiencing.

A final irony is that huge amounts of oil and gas will flow through the BTC pipeline and associated SCP gas pipeline, but the areas through which they would pass are fuel poor. Although communities in Azerbaijan used to have electricity under the Soviet system, they now lack secure supplies of energy. In Georgia, for example, only 10% of communities along the BTC route regularly receive piped gas.

[more info on BTC pipeline and social and economic development]

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What sort of disturbance would there be during construction of the pipeline?

When talking about the impacts of the pipeline, BP generally raises only ‘technical’ problems – problems that it claims can be reduced through the company’s policies, techniques and technologies. Some disturbance, however, is an unavoidable part of such a large project, as was the case, for example, when BP built its Trans-Alaska Pipeline System in the United States.

Much of the disturbance caused by the construction of the Trans-Alaska pipeline arose from the sudden arrival in the region of 28,000 young men to build it, many of them working on short-term contracts.Alaskan journalist and author John Strohmeyer describes its construction as follows:

"Everything was geared to speed . . . [The company] was prepared to accept higher construction costs at any time the alternative meant delay. Every day lost meant the sacrifice of profits from 660,000 barrels of oil, which was the estimated daily flow at start up. No one attempted to peg the precise figure. It was impressive enough to say that at [US] $10 a barrel, oil companies would be giving up $6.6 million of income a day".

The pressure to complete BTC – the projected income of which is US$ 21 million a day – is just as intense. Thousands of men and machines in the region is inevitably causing physical damage to roads, water systems and land, and social and economic damage to communities.

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Would the pipeline exacerbate conflict?

The regions through which the BTC pipeline would pass are subject to several existing, or potential, violent conflicts.

Although the BTC pipeline would only skirt the predominantly Kurdish regions of south-eastern Turkey, it would pass through areas of north-eastern Turkey where Kurds make up around 40 per cent of the population. In these areas, the Turkish State has been at war with much of the local people for many years, committing human rights abuses, and harassing and imprisoning elected Kurdish officials. The BTC pipeline requires a continuous militarised corridor which threatens the existing fragile cease-fire between Turkey and Kurdish groups. Up to 4 million people were displaced during the war, their villages burnt as they fled. Now the pipeline may well produce a form of ‘double displacement’, preventing refugees from going back to their homes, perhaps permanently.

Elsewhere, a pipeline system with such great strategic importance as BTC may re-ignite conflicts such as that between Azerbaijan and Armenia from 1988 to 1994, which created nearly a million refugees and left at least 25,000 dead. The inevitable militarisation of BTC can be foreseen in the promises made by the presidents of Georgia and Azerbaijan that they would devote substantial military resources to protection of the pipeline.

The impacts of such militarisation on the everyday lives of those who live along the BTC pipeline route may be imagined by looking at the experience of local people impacted by BP’s OCENSA pipeline in Colombia, a country that has for several decades been divided by civil war. Here, the safety of the pipeline was not so much a matter of engineering as one of politics, militarisation and conflict.

Throughout the 1990s, BP produced oil and gas, and constructed pipelines and other facilities in Colombia. The OCENSA pipeline has been at been at the centre of horrific human rights abuses, including assassinations, beatings and disappearances. These have been carried out by the Colombian army, with which BP has a close relationship, and paramilitary groups, which the army mostly condones. BP has provided equipment and funds to the army to defend its pipeline. According to an investigation by the British national newspaper The Guardian BP’s security contractors have been accused of training Colombian police in lethal operations and of passing to the army details of local peasant and union campaigners, many of whom have later been targeted. BP denies both charges.

In June 1996, Marcos Mendoza, who had participated in a protest against BP that involved stopping work on the pipeline, was shot dead at his home by the Colombian army. Arrigui Cerquera, President of the Asociación Departmental de Usuarios Campesinos (the smallholders association in the oil fields region of Casanare) and leader of the January 1994 work stoppage, was also assassinated. His killers are not known. BP was not directly responsible, although the paramilitary groups who are the likely culprits are known to target anyone who criticises the oil companies.

The pipeline itself has been frequently attacked by guerrilla groups. In October 1998, for instance, the ELN guerrilla group blew up BP's OCENSA pipeline at the village of Machuca in the state of Antioquia, Colombia. The resulting fireball killed at least 70 people. One survivor described a 50-metre ball of flame roaring along a river before hitting the village, where it engulfed wooden homes in which villagers were sleeping.

BP and its partner companies predicted even before they had built the pipeline that it would be attacked. They would have been aware, therefore, of at least some of the potential impact of increased militarisation along the pipeline. British development agencies Oxfam and Save the Children Fund argue that BP's presence has exacerbated tensions, violence and poverty.

Under the shadow of war and continuing human rights abuses, what will life be like for local people living in the militarised corridor of the BTC pipeline,?

[more info on BTC pipeline and conflict]

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How safe would the pipeline system be for the environment?

To properly understand the BTC pipeline, we need to consider it as part of a much larger system, within which no part functions without the other parts. A complete system of oil and gas fields (Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli, Shah Deniz and others), coastal oil and gas terminals (Sangachal), two pipelines (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and South Caucasus Pipeline), and downstream terminals (Erzurum and Yumurtalik, near Ceyhan). There is also an existing BP-owned refinery at Mersin, 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Ceyhan, which would be fed by the oil pipeline from Baku.

Just one failure in any part of the system could have enormous environmental consequences.

In Alaska, for example, on the night of 24th March 1989,the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground in Prince William Sound, spilling 258,000 barrels of crude oil and creating one of the world's most worst environmental disasters.

The tanker was just one element of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System which extracts oil in the fields of Alaska’s North Slope, pumps it along the pipeline and loads it from the Valdez terminal onto tankers such as the Exxon Valdez, which then carry it down to the West Coast of the United States to be refined.

Another oil company, Exxon, was responsible for the tanker in this disaster, but the terminal at Valdez was run by Alyeska – the Trans-Alaska pipeline consortium led by BP - which thus had responsibility for preventing spills and being prepared in case they did occur. And the spill became a disaster largely as a result of Alyeska's negligence.

Cleanup after the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster, 1989. The tanker terminal at Valdez was run by a BP-led consortium, and bore a large part of the responsibility for the disaster [National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration]

The disaster was not a one-off occurrence. It was a consequence of the companies behind the pipeline cutting safety standards over three decades in order to save money. Workers and journalists who have tried to raise safety issues have been harassed, sacked from their jobs, and subject to surveillance.

The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline will deliver one million barrels of crude oil per day to the tanker terminal at Yumurtalik, just south of Ceyhan in Turkey on the Mediterranean coast. To transport this crude oil to Western Europe may require nearly 1,000 tanker shipments per year, totalling perhaps 40,000 shipments in BTC's lifetime. Each of these shipments would pose a threat to the ecology and beauty of Turkey's Turquoise Coast. How safe would the flora and fauna of this coast be, and the valleys and forests through which it would pass, for the next half century? What are the risks for fishing or tourism in the region?

And what of the risks of fractures along the pipeline route, which passes through earthquake zones, and of oil spills on the offshore fields in the Caspian?

[more info on environmental impacts of BTC pipeline]

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How safe would the pipeline system be for those who operate it?

The best clues as to probable worker safety on the BTC pipeline system are in BP's safety record elsewhere. Another complete pipeline system – the Forties pipeline system, comprising North Sea oilfields, a sea and land pipeline, and a refinery at Grangemouth in Scotland – should provide some of these.

Despite Britain having strict health and safety legislation, and a critical media and political culture, Grangemouth refinery and the offshore oil installations have had a litany of safety disasters. In 1990, for example, two explosions within 10 days at Grangemouth killed three workers. In July 2000, evacuation alarms failed to go off when explosive gas leaked around the plant. The fire was the seventh safety incident in the space of a year. One contractor said, "The workmen don't have any confidence in the safety of this site." Several workers required trauma counselling, so dangerous were the conditions they had to work in. Meanwhile, on the installations of the North Sea oilfields, the memory of the Piper Alpha disaster (a platform operated by US company, Occidental), which in 1989 killed 187 workers, still looms large. There are fears that continuous cost-cutting by the oil companies create the risk of another similar tragedy.

In all BP’s largest three pipelines – the Forties Pipeline System (UK), the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (US) and the OCENSA system (Colombia) – despite national legislation to protect trade union rights, BP and its partners have fought hard against recognition of unions, and routinely intimidated workers, especially when they point out safety problems.

Given the restrictions on trade unions in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, and a lack of freedom of expression, who will protect and speak up about the pipeline system workers' rights to a safe working environment? How likely is it that abuses are being reported in the press? How accurate and honest is BP when it claims: "BP puts safety before profit and is therefore serious about this issue"?

Against BP’s terrible record of environmental destruction, economic and social damage to communities, human rights abuses and unsafe working conditions, what are the prospects for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline system, and for the people living along its route and working in its facilities?

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BP in Alaska
BP in the UK
BP in Colombia
BP in Tibet / China
BP in West Papua
Independent info on BP

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BP in Alaska

Alaska Forum for Environmental Responsibility – on environmental, workplace and economic issues, especially on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System

AlaskaGroupSix – workforce whistleblowers highlighting failed and dangerous systems on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System

Alaska PIRG – on the impacts on Alaska of the BP – Arco merger

ANWRnews – workforce whistleblowers highlighting safety problems and failed systems on Alaska’s North Slope oilfields

US PIRG – on BP’s record and the problems of opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploitation

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BP in the UK:

Charles Woolfson, University of Glasgow – on industrial relations in the North Sea oil industry

Ian Rutledge, University of Sheffield – on North Sea oil industry taxation

OILC – on workforce safety and industrial relations in the North Sea oil industry

PLATFORM – article in the Guardian, ‘Pump and circumstance - Why the oil companies stayed silent during the fuel crisis’ – on lobbying power and taxation

Wildlife Trusts – on environmental damage of the North Sea oil industry

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BP in Colombia:

Colombia Report – on lack of compensation to smallholders who lost their land to BP’s pipeline

Colombia Solidarity Campaign

Michael Gillard & Melissa Jones – ‘BP's Secret Military Advisers’, June 1997

Michael Gillard, Ignacio Gomez & Melissa Jones – ‘BP hands 'tarred in pipeline dirty war', October 1998

Human Rights Watch - human rights concerns raised by BP’s security arrangements

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BP in Tibet / China:

Backing Persecution – BP in Tibet, East Turkestan and Sudan

Campagne Tibet (France) – BP campaign

Canada Tibet Committee - World Tibet Network News

Free Tibet Campaign

International Campaign for Tibet – BP campaign

Project Underground - ‘Raiding the Treasure House: Oil and Mineral Extraction in China’s Colonization of Tibet’

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BP in West Papua:

Down to Earth – the International Campaign for Ecological Justice in Indonesia

West Papua News Online

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Independent info on BP:

BP without the PR

Corporate Accountability Project – links and resources on anti-BP campaigns

Corporate Watch – BP corporate profile

US PIRG – ‘Green Words, Dirty Deeds - An Expose of BP Amoco's Greenwashing’

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