The Black Sea leg of the Blue Stream natural gas pipeline project has been inaugurated at a ceremony held in Samsun....
At a ceremony in the Turkish Black Sea city of Samsun on Thursday, the first wield was made linking pipes to be laid beneath the surface of the water. In total, 1,213 kilometres of underwater pipes are to be laid, 376 kilometres of which will be at depths of more than 2,000 metres, deeper than any similar pipeline. The first Blue Stream pipeline, which is to be duplicated in 2002, will be completed by the end of this year.
Under the project, natural gas will be piped from the Russian port of Dzhubga, beneath the Black Sea to Samsun. From there, the gas will be transported by an already completed 501-kilometre pipeline to Ankara. It will then be distributed around the country, being pumped to 52 of Turkeys 81 provinces.
The agreement between Turkey and Russia to develop the Blue Stream project was signed in 15 December 1997 and ratified by the Turkish parliament on 4 April 1998. Under the agreement, Turkey is to receive 16 billion cubic metres of Russian gas annually for 25 years.
Though a major step towards bridging Turkeys energy deficit, Blue Stream is not without its share of controversy. There have been allegations that the contract for the construction of the Turkish leg of the pipeline was given to a company without a tender being called and that BOTAŞ, the Turkish state-owned pipeline authority, had made an advanced payment of $50 million for the construction, contrary to regulations. Official investigations into the allegations are continuing.
There are also concerns that the actual price to be paid for the Russian gas to be imported has not been disclosed, giving rise to suggestions that Turkey could have got a better deal from other sources, notably Turkmenistan.