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BP says BTC oil pipeline in brief shutdown

The BP Plc-led Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline has shut down for a short period of maintenance, BP said, as indications emerged of delays to October exports.

BP said the work was unrelated to a gas leak at a Caspian Sea oilfield that as of Monday had cut volumes to about 40% of normal volumes through the line, which can carry an amount equal to 1% of world supply.

“BTC has shut down for a short maintenance period. It won't affect exports because it was planned,” said BP spokesman Toby Odone.

Trade sources said the stoppage was expected to last about 10 hours.

BP said last week that output at the Azeri-Chirag Gunashli fields in the Caspian was cut to around 40% of its rate before the September 17 gas leak in the area of the Central Azeri platform, which prompted its shutdown and that of another installation.

Oil traders said that the drop in output from the ACG fields, the main source of oil flowing into BTC, would lead to delays in exports of Azeri crude from the Turkish port of Ceyhan in October.

“My cargoes have been shifted back by 3 to 4 days,” one lifter of the crude said.

BP has not given a date to restore output to normal at the ACG fields, which had been pumping about 850,000 barrels per day before the shutdown.

Azeri crude held in storage at Ceyhan stands at about 650,000 barrels, a trader said. That would be enough to load a smaller-sized cargo of Azeri Light, which is normally shipped in parcels of 600,000 to 1 million barrels.

BP sent a diver support vessel to investigate the cause of the gas leak and said that work is continuing.

“Hopefully, that will get back soon, download all the data and find out the cause,” Odone said.

The company is the largest shareholder in both the ACG fields and the BTC pipeline, with stakes of 34.1% and 30.1% respectively. (Reuters)