Return of the Great Game
May 25, 2005 1:32 PM   Subscribe

The BTC Pipeline opened today after more than 10 years and $4B (US) in development. It runs from the Caspian Sea across Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey, through the Caucasus mountain range to the Mediterranean. The project is so large and far-reaching some have called it Pipelineistan. The UK Independent calls it The Pipeline That Will Change The World. It travels through some of the most politically unstable regions in Central Asia, but is of such strategic importance political leaders have been replaced and the U.S. is willing to risk the wrath of neighbors Russia (with a competing pipeline of its own) and Iran to place permanent U.S. military bases along its path. It even merits personal visits from the U.S. Energy Secretary and President. Its opening may very well mark the return of the Great Game.
posted by fubar (22 comments total)
Double post in a way, but this one is actually right.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 1:40 PM on May 25, 2005

Great post, fubar! Fascinating stuff, but there's a post from earlier today that also announces the opening of the pipeline. Someone is bound to flag this one, though it is quite interesting and more detailed. Sigh. Perhaps we could move this post into the comments area of the other?
posted by shoepal at 1:41 PM on May 25, 2005

Or vice versa, this is much better than Mr_Zeros post.
posted by anthill at 1:46 PM on May 25, 2005

I didn't want to say that anthill, but that was definitely what I was thinking. This is a solid post.
posted by shoepal at 1:54 PM on May 25, 2005

Note the detour. Any countries you notice got left out of the deal?
posted by Pollomacho at 1:59 PM on May 25, 2005

Thanks, it's my first FPP.

I did a search but didn't catch the other post, perhaps because it mistakenly refers to Afghanistan which has nothing to do with this pipeline. The BTC's starting point is in Baku on the other side of the Caspian.
posted by fubar at 2:10 PM on May 25, 2005

Yeah this is a MUCH better post that other one. The other one was frigg'n childish. Good job fubar.

Damn. And I did one of my better rants in the other post.
posted by tkchrist at 2:19 PM on May 25, 2005

Nice post, but perhaps some more solid material on the Great Game (you linked to a Wikipedia grab-and-paste job). I especially liked that the Great Game was called the Tournament of Shadows in Russia, between the two names there is a very D&D sounding element to the whole thing.

For modern parrallels: This BBC post is interersting, as it ties in Uzbeckistan. So is this Nation piece.

For those who want to read the history, the book Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Central Asia. By Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac is really cool. Reviews from the NY Times and Guardian.
posted by blahblahblah at 2:47 PM on May 25, 2005

And forgive the massive spelling errors above. Enthusiasm trumped hitting the Spell Check button.
posted by blahblahblah at 2:55 PM on May 25, 2005

Meatfitler: Enthusiasm trumped hitting the Spell Check Button
posted by shoepal at 2:58 PM on May 25, 2005

the scale of this project is mind boggling. the photos on the BBC site has amazing pics of the pipes. it is almost sci-fi in it's global impact. will be interesting to watch the "security" around this..........
posted by tarantula at 2:59 PM on May 25, 2005

How does one turn on a pipeline? Pump oil through and hope for the best? Pump water first and look for leaks? How does one check for leaks along 1000 miles of pipe? How long does it take for the oil to get through end to end?
posted by stbalbach at 3:33 PM on May 25, 2005

Thank God. Now we can finally get all those Peak Oil/Global Warming/Massive Oil Spill/Republican Takeover/End of the World scenarios under way.
posted by fungible at 4:18 PM on May 25, 2005

Has anyone suggested "The Slick Road" yet?
Good job, fubar, it's scary, innit?
posted by DenOfSizer at 4:22 PM on May 25, 2005

stbalbach a pipeline is tested in a variety of ways. Visual inspection, pressure testing with inert gases or water. Ultrasonic. The coolest is the use of a specially constructed sensory package called a pig. They send the pig down the pipeline and inspect it from the inside. A pig can also repair some defects and clear blockages.
posted by Mitheral at 5:44 PM on May 25, 2005

stbalbach, several months to fill the pipeline, they say. Sounds like a good "" question.
posted by anthill at 5:51 PM on May 25, 2005

How long does it take for the oil to get through end to end?

It said on the TV news here in the UK that it'll take the oil six months to travel through the 1,000 mile pipe.

...0.2283 miles per hour...
posted by tapeguy at 6:55 PM on May 25, 2005

Let me go on record as admitting that my comment in the previous now-deleted thread was an attempt at sarcasm. But hey, if anybody wants to think I'm happy 9/11 gave the US an excuse to score a supply of cheap oil, you go right ahead.
posted by davy at 8:12 PM on May 25, 2005

A similar pipeline was featured in the 1999 James Bond film The World Is Not Enough, in which an evil oil heiress plots to radiologically contaminate the Bosporus and force usage of her pipeline. (It's a bit daft; the pipeline would have likely operated at capacity regardless.)

The BTC doesn't necessarily spell the end of pipeline plans for the Caspian region, either -- there's plenty of natural gas in Turkmenistan as well as smaller quantities of oil spread around the eastern Stans and they would profit handsomely if they could only get it out. The Iran-Indian pipeline is one such route.

Note the detour. Any countries you notice got left out of the deal?

Armenia and Azerbaijan remain uncomfortably close to war over Nagorno-Karabakh, though a ceasefire has held for some years now. Armenia occupies the region, which operates Kurdistan-style as a rump nation-state, while Azerbaijan considers the entire province sovereign territory. Armenia also has strained relations with Turkey. There really was no other likely outcome.

The military bases may have some distant role in terms of protecting the pipeline, but they're more practically about cementing relationships with governments in the region (much as the pipeline itself does), and increasing heart palpitations in Moscow and Tehran. This is the weakest the Russian state has been in four centuries; it's no great surprise the region is seeking different partners, especially since Russia and Iran are on excellent terms. This all works wonderfully to our advantage, of course.
posted by dhartung at 11:12 PM on May 25, 2005

Gah! I just thought about the game.
posted by blag at 8:03 AM on May 26, 2005

Excellent comments dhartung and blag, (for those who didn't get it) although for entirely different reasons.
posted by blahblahblah at 8:13 AM on May 26, 2005

I have to point out that the author of the "pipelineistan" link is named "pepe escobar" which I find funny.

Also, the old link was deleted. Is this the first time that posting of a dupe has resulted in the origional being deleted?


Also, how is this going to "save" the west from middle eastern oil? We're just going to use all of it. Europe might switch to caspian oil, while india and china get more ME oil. In the end, however, it all goes into the same "pool" and just affects the oil price in general.
posted by delmoi at 2:52 PM on May 26, 2005

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