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Lloyd's List

US to aid Balkan pipeline route study. June 8, 1999. By IAIN ESAU

In a bid to resolve the impasse surrounding tanker exports of Caspian oil through the busy and environmentally sensitive Bosporus Straits, the US government has agreed to partly fund the cost of technical studies into a proposed new pipeline route running from Bulgaria's Black Sea coast, via Macedonia, to the Albanian Adriatic seaboard.

Largely due to political considerations, the Dollars 826m pipeline has been on the drawing board since Brown & Root completed a feasibility study four years ago.

But now, seemingly as part of the US' Caspian oil export strategy, Washington has pledged to provide about Dollars 1m towards further engineering studies to update and expand on work already carried out on the pipeline - dubbed the Trans-Balkan Oil Pipeline Project.

Ted Ferguson, president and chief executive of Albanian-Macedonian-Bulgarian Oil Co , which was set up to oversee the infrastructure scheme, said: 'In addition to supporting the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline project, support of our project by the US government takes significant long-term transport pressure off the Bosporus Straits'.

He also pointed out: 'it is a natural extension of America's overall policy for east-west oil and gas pipelines.' The 910 km long, 36 inch diameter line is designed to handle 750,000 barrels per day of oil. It would link the Bulgarian port of Bourgas with the port of Vlore in Albania.

AMBO said in a statement that together with the US government's South Balkan Development Initiative, its pipeline will become part of an east-west corridor that will include highway, railway, gas and fibre-optic telecommunication lines.