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Explosion closes Azerbaijan-Turkey gas pipeline again

Istanbul — * Repairs expected to take several days
* Flow restarted Sunday after 3-week closure for Shah Deniz maintenance

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An explosion believed to have been caused by a sabotage attack has halted flow on the pipeline that brings gas from Azerbaijan to Turkey for the second time this month.

A Turkish energy ministry official confirmed that flow on the line, also known as the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline or the South Caucasus gas pipeline, had been halted last night following an explosion believed to be the result of a sabotage attack by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK admitted responsibility for a previous attack on the line in early August.

TV footage shot in the Kars region of northeast Turkey close to where the explosion occurred showed flames reaching hundreds of meters into the air, with locals reporting that the explosion was heard several miles away.

An official from the BP-led consortium operating Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz gas field, which supplies the 6.6 billion cubic meters/year of gas the line currently carries, confirmed that flow through the line restarted on Sunday having been halted for around three weeks due to planned maintenance work on the Shah Deniz gas field.

Flow was still ramping up and was not close to normal levels when the explosion occurred, he said.

Repairs to the line are expected to take several days, with the area around the site of the explosion still sealed off by security forces.

The sabotage attack is the second on this pipeline in the past three weeks.

The line was blown up previously on August 3, an attack claimed by the PKK which has also claimed responsibility for similar sabotage attacks on the Iran-Turkey gas line on July 27 and on the Iraq-Turkey oil line on July 28.

The PKK last month announced that it was ending its two-year ceasefire. The Azerbaijan-Turkey gas line currently carries up to 6.6 Bcm/year of Azeri gas from the Shah Deniz gas field to Turkey under an agreement signed in 2001, with flow commencing on September 30, 2006.

In 2014 Turkey imported 6.074 Bcm from Azerbaijan, according Turkey's energy regulator EPDK. The most recent EPDK data indicates that during June, Turkey imported 562 million cu m of gas from Azerbaijan, 17.6% of total imports that month.

--David O'Byrne,
--Edited by Alisdair Bowles,