BP pushed for major subsidies at the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD) AGM in Istanbul last weekend, while hyping the grand scale of its Euro-Caspian Mega Pipeline plans. Between speeches by Prime Ministers and sessions on “Supporting Growth Amidst Austerity”, oil companies revealed their intentions to spend $40 billion expanding Europe’s gas grid to suck in fuel from the Caspian and beyond.
Al Cook, BP Vice-President for Shah Deniz, gave his audience a rather rose-tinted perspective on the history of the Oil Road and the company’s three existing pipelines across the Caucasus. He explained that, “we’ve come to rely on the EBRD since the early 1990s”, as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline “would have been literally impossible without the support of the EBRD.” Great to know that this massive piece of infrastructure that has made BP billions relied heavily on public subsidies. Back in 2002, then BP CEO John Browne explicitly demanded “free public money” as a pre-condition to building the pipeline.
Now BP want to repeat the whole experience. Brand new pipelines are planned in Azerbaijan and Georgia – the bulldozers will return to tear up the fields they ripped through back in 2004 and 2005. Then the proposed Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) will cross the entire breadth of Turkey, sucking in the gas from Georgia and delivering it to the European Union border with either Bulgaria or Greece. From there, two pipelines are currently in competition – Nabucco Wes through Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria, or the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline via Greece and Albania into Italy.
Altogether, the pipelines will stretch over 4,000 kilometres. It’s not only their length – each pipe will be 1.5 metres wide. The size of his pipe was clearly getting Al Cook excited, “It’s big – 56 inches wide! Why is it 56 inches? Because that’s as big as we can possible make it. It’s that big because of our confidence.” He was equally enthusiastic about the the scale of BP’s kit: “Our Shah Deniz field is the size of Manhattan Island, the largest gas field BP ever discovered … We are building two giant rigs offshore … Our Sangachal terminal is already the largest outside the Middle East.” The EBRD – infamous for its lending to destructive oil & gas projects including the BTC pipeline – was suitably impressed. The first gas would arrive in 2018, and be pumped for decades.
As Guardian energy editor Terry McAlister pointed out, there was no mention of climate change in the presentation. Locking in this amount of gas – still a dirty fossil fuel – into future EU consumption would contribute significantly towards moving the planet beyond the climatic tipping point.
Nor was there any mention of the local communities along the pipeline routes. Cook dodged a question from us about BP’s past lies to its project financiers, and the company’s cover-up of bombs that were dropped on one of its pipelines during the Russia-Georgia war, as described in The Oil Road.
The speakers, and especially Al Cook, were explicit about the scale of their vision. Costs would reach $40 billion, not including pipelines to Turkmenistan or Iraq. “Undoubtedly to develop these projects, we’ll need project finance.” Once again, the oil corporations are seeking public funds to buttress their profit margins and guarantee their international pipeline systems.
To comprehend the magnitude of $40 billion, compare it to the entire annual investment into renewables in the UK of between $4 and $9 billion. BP’s pipe dream to pump Caspian gas directly to the heart of Europe will cost the equivalent of 5-10 years of renewables investments in the UK.
BP’s Caspian plans are locking us into climate disaster, by diverting funds away from climate friendly alternatives, shaping European energy demand around gas consumption and creating infrastructure intended to pump fossil fuels for decades.