Oil pipeline across Turkey would help environment - ambassador

MOSCOW, April 12 (RIA Novosti) - The Samsun-Ceyhan oil pipeline would reduce oil transit through the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits and improve Turkey's environment, the country's ambassador to Russia said Wednesday.

The proposed pipeline from Turkey's Black Sea coast to the Mediterranean is seen by Turkey as the first stage of a transport network that would eventually link the Middle East and Asia to Europe via Turkey

"The passing of tankers through the straits poses a threat to the environment, to cities, and to people's lives," Turkish Ambassador Kurtulus Tashkent said.

Oil transit via the Bosphorus, which divides east and west Turkey, and the Dardanelles in the country's northwest reached 150 mln tons (1 bln bbl) in 2004, up from 65 mln tons (476 mln bbl) in 1996. Over-use of the straits threatens an environmental catastrophe, and alternatives must be found, Kurtulus said.

With a projected annual capacity of around 60 million tons (439.8 mln barrels), the Samsun-Ceyhan project has many advantages, he said. Samsun is the nearest Turkish port to Russia's major Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, while Ceyhan has all the necessary infrastructure for oil refining, and is deep enough to accommodate the largest tankers.

At a meeting in Ankara with Turkish Energy Minister Hilmi Guler in early February, the head of Russian energy giant Gapzrom Alexei Miller discussed deliveries of Russian oil to world markets via the Samsun-Ceyhan pipeline.

At the meeting, Gazprom also called for a new pipeline to be built across the Black Sea to deliver natural gas through Turkey to third countries, including Italy, Greece and Israel.

The largest Russian-Turkish joint energy project to date has been the Blue Stream pipeline, carrying Russian natural gas to Turkey. The $3.2 bln pipeline transported 5 bln cubic meters of natural gas in 2005, and is expected to transport 16 bln cu m annually by 2010.

The Turkish ambassador said technical and prospecting work is now underway to extend Blue Stream to Lebanon and Israel.

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