When the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline is operating at normal capacity, over one million barrels of crude oil are transported 1,768 km from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean. Since 2006 the pipeline has carried over 2 billion barrels of oil, this makes it one of the principal strategic energy corridors between Asia and the energy markets of Europe.
Construction of the line was undertaken by a consortium of 11 oil companies, led by BP, and it was an epic task. Between Baku in Azerbaijan and the terminal at Ceyhan on the south-eastern coast of Turkey, the line crosses several 2,800 m mountain ranges, more than 3,000 roads and railways and 13 seismically active fault crossings. Over this entire length, the pipeline is buried a minimum of one meter beneath the ground.
ABB’s contribution to the $3.9 billion project was to supply the systems that operate the line, as well as several production platforms in the Caspian and a marine terminal for offloading the oil. These include the intermediate pumping stations that keep the liquid flowing, the pigging stations that clear any blockages that form, the meters that keep track of how much hydrocarbon has passed and the block valve stations that allow sections of the line to be isolated.
Under the terms of its deal with the BP consortium, ABB designed, fabricated, installed and integrated these systems using its System 800xA industrial control platform. The software gathers information from the length of the line using the fiber-optic telecoms link that forms its nervous system. This enables real time control of every process and safety function in three countries
The Azerbaijan and Georgia sections of the pipeline are operated by BP on behalf of its shareholders in BTC Co. while the Turkish section is operated by BOTAS International Limited (BIL)
ABB’s world-leading industrial automation platform is capable of handling both process and safety control in one system using common hardware, and is able to securely manage access to control across huge geographic distances, rather than using separate systems, as is done traditionally. This is of paramount importance to ensure pipeline efficiency, as well as environmental and personal safety.