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BTC oil pipeline fire extinguished

A fire on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline in Turkey was extinguished on Monday, a senior source at BP, a major shareholder in the pipeline, told Reuters.

The pipeline carrying Azeri crude, which passes through Georgia, was hit by an explosion on Turkish territory in the week before conflict began over the South Ossetia region.

Repairs may not be finished for one to two weeks or longer, according to sources at Turkey's state-owned pipeline company Botas.

World oil prices rose last week after the announcement of the blaze, and estimates that it could take up to two weeks to get the pipeline on stream again.

“Today we put the fire out, and immediately after that we started trying to cool down the pipeline. As soon as the cooling process ends, we will begin assessing the damage and start repairs,” he said.

The pipeline normally carries Azeri oil which is high quality and commands a premium. The $4 billion BTC pipeline can pump up to a million barrels per day, the equivalent of more than 1 percent of world supply, from fields in the Azeri sector of the Caspian Sea to Ceyhan on the Turkish Mediterranean coast.

The biggest hindrance to firefighting efforts was oil that settled in the pipeline since the flow was stopped last Tuesday.

Technical teams sent to the site of the fire will assess the damage and the BTC consortium will decide how to proceed.

One repair method put forth by the teams could take two weeks or longer, pushing back original estimates for a date to get the pipeline back on line.

BP owns 30.1% of BTC, while Azeri state oil company Socar holds 25%. Other shareholders include US companies Chevron and ConocoPhillips, Norway's StatoilHydro, Italy's ENI and France's Total.

Kurdish separatists claimed responsibility for the explosion and said they would carry out more attacks on economic targets inside Turkey. Military and local official sources said the fire was due to a technical error and was not due to sabotage. (Reuters)