This article was first published in Platform’s Carbon Web newsletter, issue 10.
At 11pm on 5 August, a major explosion ruptured the BTC pipeline near Yurtbashi village in Turkey’s eastern Erzincan province. The blast sent flames shooting up to 160 feet in the air. Nearby residents told PLATFORM that they heard explosions, before a plume of smoke scattered ashes onto surrounding crops. It took six days to extinguish the fire, by which time an estimated 12,000 barrels of oil had been burned off, spreading a toxic cocktail of carcinogens and other pollutants over a wide area.
The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) claimed responsibility for the explosion. The group has threatened further attacks, including on tanker ships using BTC’s terminal at Ceyhan on the Mediterranean.
There are now fears that the local population, especially Kurds, will suffer from increased military crackdowns and raids along the route of the pipeline. PLATFORM has already received reports that Kurdish villagers have received letters warning them that their cropfields around the pipeline are now off limits. Under the legal regime for BTC, the oil companies may invoke force majeure for acts of terrorism. However, the Turkish state, responsible for ensuring the security of the pipeline, may not. This creates a direct financial incentive for further militarisation of the pipeline route – worrying news for those who live along it.