ECONOMY

US oil giants consider new trans-Balkan pipeline

SOFIA (Reuters) – US oil giants ExxonMobil Corp and ChevronTexaco Corp are considering building a 1.13-billion-dollar trans-Balkan pipeline to transport oil westwards from the Caspian and the Black Sea, the project’s manager said on Friday. «We are in regular discussions with ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil and examining various aspects of the project,» said Edward Ferguson, President and CEO of the Albanian, Macedonian and Bulgarian Oil Corporation (AMBO) which is managing the project. The project, which has been discussed since 1996, envisages carrying Caspian oil from Bulgaria to Albania via the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, bypassing the heavily used Bosphorus Straits through Turkey. AMBO, registered in the USA, has letters of acceptance from the governments of the three Balkan countries for the 898-km (560-mile) underground pipeline linking Bulgaria’s Black Sea port of Burgas to the Albanian port of Vlora. The pipeline would have a daily capacity of 750,000 barrels. Ferguson said the project would be fully financed by Western companies and the three Balkan countries only have to provide institutional support. He said the main consumers of the oil carried through the trans-Balkan pipeline would be northwestern Europe and the United States of America rather than the Mediterranean region. «America’s own crude resources are declining rapidly and it already imports over 50 percent of its annual needs. Europe is closing in on a similar situation – reserves in the north are declining and it will start running out of oil supplies around 2010,» said Ferguson. AMBO was confident that another planned 700-million-euro ($607 million) pipeline sending crude from Russia to Greece via Bulgaria would not threaten its own project, as the two had targeted different investors and consumers. The second project envisages carrying 35 million tons of crude per year from the Russian port of Novorossiisk by tanker to Burgas in Bulgaria, from where the 256 km underground pipeline will transfer the oil to Alexandroupolis in northeastern Greece. «Burgas-Alexandroupolis is going to be decided by Russia, Bulgaria and Greece with the help of Russian oil companies. The decision for Burgas-Vlora will be made by Western firms supported by the USA and Europe,» said Ferguson.