by Dmitry FYODOROV, Dr. Sc. (Geol. & Mineral.), GEON Center of Regional Geophysical and Geoecological Studies, RF Ministry of Natural Resources
The oil and gas deposits of the Caspian have been common knowledge practically from time immemorial. The ancient Greek biographer and historian Plutarch wrote that on his approach to the Girkana Gulf "... Alexander the Great, King of Macedon, was struck by the sight of a chasm... which was spitting out fire and torrents of oil flowing into a nearby lake." Two and a half centuries later, in the mid-20th century, people started for the first time in the world petroleum extraction on an industrial scale from sea platforms located on the Neftyanye Kamni (Oil Rocks) far from shore. But the risks involved transpired soon thereafter when one such platform off the Apsheron Peninsula was swept away by a storm together with a team of workmen(of foreman Kaverochkin) who manned the site.
CROSSROADS OF INTERESTS
The Caspian-the largest inland sea in the world (some 1,200 km long and up to 320 km across)-contains what experts call unique biota. Its main treasures, however, are massive deposits of hydrocarbons (which have been confirmed by the latest prospecting in various geological structures). Their strategic value consists in their most advantageous location: on the one side-between the main oil and gas markets of Europe and Asia, and, on the other-between the main suppliers of these raws (Near East and Russia).
In view of this situation two projects have been worked out of what are called transregional oil and gas pipelines of large diameter. One will run across the sea from Tengiz (big oil field on the north-eastern shore) to Baku and then stretch across the Transcaucasus to the Turkish port of Jeikhan on the Mediterranean. The second pipeline will start at the Shatlyk field in Eastern Turkmenistan and run across the Caspian, then through the territory of Azerbaijan and Georgia, and on to the Turkish port of Erzerum.
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