By Brooks Tigner, Brussels
March 13 2006

How secure is the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, which will
haul petrochemicals 1,760 kilometers from the Caspian Sea across the
Caucasian peninsula to Turkey?

Sufficiently, say members of the independent Caspian Development
Advisory Panel, which advises BP, the lead company on the project.

"There is very sophisticated sensor technology all along the
pipeline. It protects against intruders, sabotage and illegal siphoning
as well," Stuart Eizenstat, former U.S. ambassador to the European
Union and one of the panel's four members, told a February meeting
here, organized by the U.S. George Marshall Fund. "Any intrusion will
alert local security forces."

But defense analysts and officials familiar with the challenge of
protecting the pipeline's infrastructure are skeptical.

"Pipelines are a target of choice for terrorist and insurgent groups,"
said David Cooper, an independent defense consultant here.

"When you think of high-value targets, you think airports, harbors
and energy networks."

The buried pipeline will soon enter operation, with the first oil
tanker to be loaded at its terminal port in Turkey by midyear.

Together with a sister project, the South Caucasus Pipeline, the two
networks will transport 1 million barrels of oil and 7 billion cubic
meters of Caspian Sea supplies each year.

"This will be a very important step forward toward security for the
region and diversification of international energy supplies," said
Jan Leschly, the panel's chair and founder of the Care Capital venture
firm. "It will offer many opportunities [for BP and other companies]
to promote stability in an unstable region via market mechanisms."

The panel released its latest 24-page assessment of the project and
BP's cooperation with BTC countries Feb. 14, entitled "Report on
2005 Activities."

According to the report, the British energy group has worked
extensively with the three governments involved in the $3 billion
project - Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey - to help ensure their
security forces are properly trained to safeguard stability along
the BTC, while respecting human rights.

At the panel's recommendation, BP has persuaded the Georgian and Azeri
governments to work with the U.S. security firm Equity International
to oversee the training. Turkey rebuffed the offer and is working with
the security forces of Northern Ireland to train its gendarmerie and
other personnel to be stationed along the country's 1,070-kilometer
section of the meter-wide pipeline.

Regional Stability Questions The stability of the region through
which BP's pipeline passes is out of its hands, however.

The Caucasus is larded with ethnic, religious, political and military
tensions between and within its constituent states. Turkey and Armenia
have no diplomatic relations, for example. Azerbaijan and Armenia have
been at low-level war with each other for 15 years over the disputed
territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Meanwhile, Georgia has tense relations
with Moscow, which stations troops on its territory and does little
to discourage breakaway sentiment among Georgia's northern provinces
adjacent to Russia.

Moreover, corruption is widespread in the three countries, according
to government monitoring groups. Among the 159 countries surveyed
for government transparency in 2005 by Berlin-based Transparency
International, Azerbaijan falls at position 137. As the Caspian panel
notes in its report, BP's ability "to influence near-term challenges to
[the region's] stability is limited."

Asked if the panel has carried out its own risk-assessment of security
threats to the two pipelines, Leschly said it did not, relying instead
on the conclusions of independent reports commissioned by BP. One of
the groups that BP used was Foley Hoag, a U.S. law firm with offices
in Boston and Washington, which produced a report Jan. 31 on security
and aspects of the project. Defense News was unable to secure a copy
of the report by press time.

In addition to the pipeline's sensor technology, the network will be
patrolled by armed personnel, including those on horseback. But even
these combined defenses leave security experts doubtful.

"We support the pipeline idea, of course: it's good for Europe's
security of supply, but the Caucasus is a very touch-and-go kind of
place," said a European diplomat, who added that the region's stability
needs to be tied more closely to the European Union's so-called
European Neighborhood Policy of democratic and economic initiatives.

Cooper, a former NATO defense planner, warned that the pipelines
could be very expensive and complicated to protect if faced with
groups bent on inflicting damage to it.

"Pipelines are nearly possible to protect. But horseback patrols
and ground sensors? They need high-resolution earth observation at a
minimum," he said. "Even with the best of technology, you've got to
have an entire organizational approach coordinated along the whole
thing to secure it."