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Monday, 26 March, 2001, 00:36 GMT 01:36 UK
Oil flows from the Caspian

By Central Asia correspondent Catherine Davis

The first major pipeline dedicated to moving oil from the Caspian direct to world markets is to be opened in Kazakhstan on Monday.

Kazakh Prime Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev will turn the tap on.


This is the pipeline that Kazakhstan has been waiting for and it puts Kazakhstan on the map

Steve Levine, Wall Street Journal
The pipeline runs from the huge Tengiz oil field in western Kazakhstan to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk.

The link, built by the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC), will potentially transform Kazakhstan's economy and put the country on the map as a real oil power.

But its opening comes after years of speculation, drama and uncertainty.

Export hurdles

That it is finally to open is considered a triumph for those involved - for CPC, the American-led consortium TengizChevroil and for the Kazakh and Russian Governments.

Since Kazakhstan and its Caspian neighbours gained independence almost a decade ago, the spotlight has been on their resources - oil and gas.

Pipeline
The pipeline could transform Kazakhstan's economy
Few doubt the potential of these reserves, but it has proved problematic figuring out how to export them.

Kazakhstan is a land-locked country far from world markets and, so far, it has had to use existing pipelines.

The new facility is important because it is the first major pipeline to export Caspian oil.

"This is the pipeline that Kazakhstan has been waiting for and it puts Kazakhstan on the map," said Steve Levine, Caspian correspondent for the Wall Street Journal.

"It's no longer a potential oil power, but a real oil power," he added.

Economic transformation

The impact on Kazakhstan will not be immediate, but it will potentially transform the country's economy.

The Tengiz field is the sixth largest in the world.

Another Kazakh reserve under exploration now could turn out to be the third largest.

The question of pipelines and which route or routes they take remains key.

Russia, the United States, Turkey and Iran are all vying for influence here.

For Kazakhstan, the opening of the CPC pipeline is not the end of the story but just the beginning.

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See also:

12 Mar 01 | Europe
Caspian gas deal signed
09 Mar 01 | Middle East
Iran prospects for Caspian oil
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