Oil strategy of Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is one of the most ancient oil countries in the world and she has passed a long way of development in its 150 year historical period. Commercial oil refining has begun since the XIX century in Azerbaijan. The oil gush in Bibiheybat, in Baku, in 1848 founded the commercial production of "Dark gold". Already in 1899, Azerbaijan was the first in the world in oil production and refining, oil, it produced half of the oil of the world.

Till 1994, Azerbaijan produced nearly one milliard tons of oil in its onshore and offshore deposits. The commercial off-shore production of oil began in Azerbaijan. This fact takes a special place in the world oil industry. The experience of the Azerbaijani oilmen gained from oil and gas production makes Azerbaijan famous in the world oil industry in the 20th century.

Azerbaijan`s oil was one of the decisive factors in the victory over the nazi Germany in the Second World War.

Those years the Azerbaijani oilmen totally had produced 75 million tons of oil. During the Second World War Baku produced 80% of fuel, 96% of different lubricants all over the former Soviet Union. As a result, every 5 soviet aircraft, 4 tank and truck that solved the destiny of war worked on the Azerbaijani fuel. The Azerbaijani people gained a chance to use this oil for its own benefit after gaining national independence, at the late of the XX century. This opportunity was realized by Heydar Aliyev who came to the leadership of Azerbaijani government at the demand of the Azerbaijani people.

In the 90s of the previous century, Azerbaijan suffered a deep crisis in political, economic and military spheres connected with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Heydar Aliyev used the oil factor in the solution of such difficult problem and developed the oil strategy of Azerbaijan. Oil strategy is a long term national development program aimed at drawing the country`s energy recourses to the economic turnover by cooperating with the big foreign companies on the principle of mutual benefit. Taking into account the interests of the present and the future generations in developing its oil strategy. This principle was expressed by Heydar Aliyev like this: "oil is the greatest wealth of Azerbaijan and it belongs not only to the present of Azerbaijan, but also to the future generations".

The contract signed within the frames of the oil strategy of Azerbaijan concerned the development of "Azeri" "Chiraq" "Gunashli" in the Azerbaijani Sector of the Caspian Sea with the foreign companies. The negotiations related with the preparation of the contract were continued in Baku, Istanbul and Houston over a year, and the contract became ready for the signature in September 1994. Due to the Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) this contract takes into account development of energy reserves in the mentioned oil deposits with 11 great oil companies representing 8 countries of the world. Soon this contract became famous as the "Contract of the Century". This contract founded Azerbaijan`s new oil strategy and present rapid development. Some days before the signature of the contract the President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev estimating that this contract is one of the decisive factors for the protection of sovereignty and development of the national economy stated: "The Presented project today guarantees the economic interests of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani people and it will do the same in future, and that is why, I decided to sign this contract"

The contract was signed on September 20, 1994 and assisted to the newly independent Azerbaijan to maintain and strengthen its independence, helped to broaden its international image, and it had exceptional impact on the economy. At present, every 20 September is celebrated as the "Day of oilmen".

Before the signature of the "Contract of the Century", the energy recourses, in three deposits were estimated 511 million tons of oil, 160 milliard cubic meters of gas. But the last researches proved that the capacity of these deposits are nearly one milliard tons of oil and three hundred milliard cubic meters of gas. Since 1994, $ 18.4 milliard has been invested in the framework of the contract.

Early oil production from these three deposits, in the framework of the "Contract of Century" started in November 1997. Hitherto 123 million tons of oil and 26 milliard cubic meters of gas have been produced from those deposits. Since 1999, Azerbaijan has begun to gain its own benefit from the contract oil. The oil produced until 1999 was spent to reimburse the invested capital. Until May, 2008, Azerbaijan has shipped 26 million ton profit oil (217 tankers) to the world market.

Since Azerbaijan began to produce oil within the frame of its oil strategy, the output began to increase in the country. For example, if the country produced 9 million tons of oil in 1997, in 2005, 22.2 million tons in 2006 Azerbaijan broke the initial record (in 1941, 23.5 million ton), producing 32.3 million tons, in 2007 42.6 million tons of oil. Totally, the international experts estimate that Azerbaijan`s reserves of oil is 6 milliard ton.

Incomes gained from the profit oil are accumulated in the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan Republic (SOFAZ) which was established in December 1999 with the decree issued by the Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev. The main purposes of establishment of the fund are to increase economic development, to finance social-economic projects by using the capital gained from the profit oil. SOFAZ has stabilizer and collector functions. At the same time SOFAZ provides assistance for human and non oil sectors development. An observation council of SOFAZ provides public surveillance and transparence in oil income. Executive and legislative authorities and representatives of public are represented here. According to the reports of April 1, 2008, 3 billion 336 million US dollars have accumulated in the fund`s budget and more than 4 billion US dollars have been spent for the implementation of different strategic projects in previous years.

Possibility of opening of new oil-condensate deposits in the Caspian Section of Azerbaijan, gives an opportunity to increase production of oil and to increase it to 66-67 million tons within the next few years. But in the initial period of works in the framework of the "Contract of the Century" some foreign investors did not invest in the construction of the export oil pipeline because they were concerned that oil reserve could be lesser than estimated in Azerbaijan. Because of that, the Baku-Novorossiysk pipeline in 1998 and Baku -Supsa in 1999 were used to deliver oil to the world and European markets. The delivery capacities of these pipelines together were 20 million tons per year.

Haydar Aliyev, who knew Azerbaijan`s oil potential, endeavored to construct a pipeline through a more favorable rout. Haydar Aliyev worked hard on this mission and he achieved in the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan gas and oil pipeline. In 2002, the construction of this pipeline was started. It is not accidentally that this huge project was named after Haydar Aliyev, because he rendered exceptional contributions to the construction of this pipeline. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline is distinguished from other pipelines for its importance and scale. On June 2006, the main export pipeline was put into operation, the length of this pipeline is 1769 km, the capacity is 50 million tons (one million barrel per a day). Four billion US dollars were invested for the construction of this pipeline, and 22 thousands workers worked at this construction. The oil reaches from Baku to Ceyhan seaport (Turkey) for 10 days.

Since 1994, the "Contract of the century" has founded Azerbaijan`s oil strategy and 27 oil agreements have been signed with foreign oil companies untill today.

There are 30 perspective deposits to be delivered jointly. 15 agreements are on the Caspian Section and 12 of them concern the onshore deposits. In this agreement 43 companies representing 21 countries of the world are partners of the Azerbaijani Republic. It is estimated that 60 billion of US dollars will be invested for the exploration, constructions and transportation of hydrocarbon reserves.

Due to the oil strategy the infrastructure of the petro-chemical and oil refining industry, which forms the bases of the national economy, was formed. It meets the world standards along with it the sub-spheres of the infrastructure of the oil-making were created which also meet the same standards. The experience obtained from oil refining and oil processing, as well as the qualified specialists potential of the Azerbaijani government began to make big investments to the said spheres of the foreign countries. At present, oil refining terminal in Georgia, oil refinery plant in Turkey belong to SOCAR which represent the Azerbaijan government. The Azerbaijani oilmen and engineers are conducting oil explorations in Moldova.

After the signature of the "Contract of the Century", Heydar Aliyev founded the tradition of holding exhibition-conferences, called "Caspian petro-chemical and gas" which is global importance. Its goal is to call the attention to the Caspian oil and to stimulate co-operation and to apply new technology for production and transportation of oil and gas. The last conference, which celebrated its 15th jubilees, hundreds of progressive companies were represented from all over the world. Exhibition-conferences have played a great role in the realization of the oil strategy.

"The Contract of the century introduced Azerbaijan to the world as an oil country and "Shahdeniz" gas-condensate deposit located in the Azerbaijani Section of the Caspian Sea once more introduced Azerbaijan as a gas producer. In 2007, according to estimations this deposit has one trillion of gas reserves. Presently, "Shahdeniz" is the second big project after the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline project which is being implemented and has real results. In December 2006, large-scale works began for the exploration of the deposit. At the moment, per-day production is 19 million cubic meters of gas and 4,5 thousands tons of condensate.

In 2005, the construction of another large-scale project, the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline started. It provides the export of gas from "Shahdeniz" to the world market, and in 2007 it began to be exploited. The pipeline is of 971 km length, 1066 mm diameter and 20 billion cubic meter of delivery capacity. 383 million cubic meters of gas have been delivered to Georgia and 2,8 billion cubic meters to Turkey since its start of operation.

Since the beginning of production (2006) until present, 5,9 billion cubic meters of gas and 1,6 million tons of condensate have been produced in "Shadeniz". It caused provided the gas supply of the country with its internal resources. If Azerbaijan produced 5,0 million cubic meters of gas in 2007, it increased to 16,9 billion cubic meter. It is estimated that increase of gas production from "Shahdeniz" will be 8,0 billion cubic meters in 2008, 22 billion cubic meters in 2015, and 35 billion cubic meter after full scale production.

Big projects realized in the framework of the oil strategy of Azerbaijan like the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum oil and gas pipelines are conditioned the birth of large-scale projects like the Transcaucasian and NABUCCO projects. They are important factors from political and economic point of view for Azerbaijan as a transit country.

Thus, the new oil strategy of Azerbaijan is a useful profitable program nationally, regionally and globally. Predicting all this, President Heydar Aliyev said in the ceremony of the signature of the "Contract of Century": "I am happy to take place in drafting and signature of this contract. I perceive the responsibility which I undertook and I hope that the future generations will appreciate it."

Realization of the oil strategy which started with the "Contract of the Century", Azerbaijan founded more reliable economic and political partnerships. Capital began to flow to other sectors of economy and the present day growth as been provided.

Heydar Aliyev, founder of the oil strategy of Azerbaijan, talking about the "Contract of the Century" in one of his interviews, said that it grew along "a narrow and dangerous path". Today, this path changed into the development way of Azerbaijan. Evaluating the oil strategy of Azerbaijan, one point of the nationwide leader Heydar Aliyev is relevant: "The oil strategy of Azerbaijan has already given its fruits and is one of the factors of free and independent development of Azerbaijan in the 21st century."