Baku-Ceyhan pipeline work slowed by tests

TBILISI (Reuters) – Environmental checks have halted work on the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline for two weeks, but will not affect the planned date for the BP-led project to come on stream, a BP spokeswoman said. «We have suspended welding work… The Georgian government wants independent experts to conduct safety tests,» Rusudan Medzmariashvili said. The pipeline is 70 percent complete and due to be finished in January, with the first tanker expected to load in the second quarter of 2005. The pipeline will deliver oil from the BP-operated Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli oil fields in the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. Western nations – and the United States in particular – have looked at it as an important alternative supply of oil to the volatile Middle East. Georgian Environment Minister Tamara Lebanidze told the 24 Hours newspaper that she was worried about the environmental impact of the project. «We demand that our conditions should be strictly adhered to. Some of the agreed conditions have not been met,» she was quoted as saying. Medzmariashvili said the work would mean a two-week interruption to work on the pipeline.