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Context of 'November 1, 2002: Caspian Oil Potential Was Wildly Overestimated'

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The American Petroleum Institute asserts that the states bordering the Caspian Sea, north of Afghanistan, contain two-thirds of the world’s known reserves, or 659 billion barrels. Such numbers spur demand for an Afghan pipeline. However, by April 1997, estimates drop to 179 billion barrels. [Middle East Journal, 9/22/2000] This is still substantial, but the estimates continue to drop in future years (see November 1, 2002).

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Associated Press will later report that the Enron corporation bribes Taliban officials as part of a “no-holds-barred bid to strike a deal for an energy pipeline in Afghanistan.” Atul Davda, a senior director for Enron’s International Division, will later claim, “Enron had intimate contact with Taliban officials.” Presumably this effort began around 1996, when a power plant Enron was building in India ran into trouble and Enron began an attempt to supply it with natural gas via a planned pipeline through Afghanistan (see 1995-November 2001 and June 24, 1996). In 1997, Enron executives privately meet with Taliban officials in Texas (see December 4, 1997). They are “given the red-carpet treatment and promised a fortune if the deal [goes] through.” It is alleged Enron secretly employs CIA agents to carry out its dealings overseas. According to a CIA source, “Enron proposed to pay the Taliban large sums of money in a ‘tax’ on every cubic foot of gas and oil shipped through a pipeline they planned to build.” This source claims Enron paid more than $400 million for a feasibility study on the pipeline and “a large portion of that cost was pay-offs to the Taliban.” Enron continues to encourage the Taliban about the pipeline even after Unocal officially gives up on the pipeline in the wake of the African embassy bombings (see December 5, 1998). An investigation after Enron’s collapse in 2001 (see December 2, 2001) will determine that some of this pay-off money ended up funding al-Qaeda. [Associated Press, 3/7/2002]

Entity Tags: Atul Davda, Enron Corporation, Taliban, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Unocal announces it is withdrawing from the CentGas pipeline consortium, and closing three of its four offices in Central Asia. President Clinton refuses to extend diplomatic recognition to the Taliban, making business there legally problematic. A concern that Clinton will lose support among women voters for upholding the Taliban plays a role in the cancellation. [New York Times, 12/5/1998]

Entity Tags: Centgas, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Unocal, Taliban

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Steven Mann, Director of the State Department’s Caspian Basin Energy Policy Office, points out that the Caspian Sea nations contain 50 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. [Associated Press, 11/1/2002] “Caspian oil represents four percent of the world reserves. It will never dominate the world markets, but it will have an important role to play,” said Mann. He concludes that the Caspian Sea energy “will not be a second Persian Gulf.” [Associated Press, 11/1/2002] In late 1995, the American Petroleum Institute asserted that the states bordering the Caspian Sea contained 659 billion barrels of oil (see December 1995).

Entity Tags: Steven Mann

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The US ambassador to Turkmenistan states that US companies might join a long-delayed trans-Afghan natural gas pipeline project. The Turkmenistan government says a feasibility study for the $3.5 billion pipeline is complete and construction will begin in 2006. The project’s main sponsor is the Asian Development Bank. The pipeline is to run from Turkmenistan through Herat and Kandahar in Afghanistan, through the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Multan, and on to India. [Associated Press, 1/18/2005] However, in August 2005 it will be reported that security concerns are still causing delays in approval of the project. A NATO representative will say, “People here are able to see what the Iraqi insurgency can do despite the presence of 150,000 foreign troops. Why not do the same in Afghanistan?” [Sydney Morning Herald, 8/25/2005]

Entity Tags: Asian Development Bank, Turkmenistan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

A delegation from India visits Pakistan to discuss cooperation in the oil and gas sectors. The 11-person delegation is headed by Indian Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Mani Shankar Aiyar. The two countries agree to establish a working group to review the legal, technical, commercial, and financial parameters of the proposed Iran-India-Pakistan gas pipeline (see 1993 and January 27, 2003) that would transport natural gas 2,775 km from Iran to India via Pakistan. They plan to start the project by December 31, 2005. [Islamic Republic News Agency, 6/5/2005; Tribune (Chandigarh), 6/5/2005] At a press conference on June 6, Aiyar is asked about US concerns expressed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in March (see March 19, 2005) that the pipeline would strengthen Iran. Aiyar responds that construction of the pipeline is contigent only upon an agreement being made between India and Pakistan. [Tribune (Chandigarh), 6/5/2005] India and Pakistan also discuss the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) pipeline (see January 18, 2005), which they agree should extend to India. [Tribune (Chandigarh), 6/5/2005; Associated Press, 6/5/2005] The delegation also explores the possibility of exporting Indian diesel to Pakistan. [Islamic Republic News Agency, 6/5/2005]

Entity Tags: Mani Shankar Aiyar, Condoleezza Rice

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran

The first oil pumped from Baku, by the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan, arrives in Ceyhan, on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, and is loaded onto a ship. The 1,770 km pipeline, which passes through the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, bypasses Russia and Iran for geopolitical reasons. The main shareholder is British Petroleum, and other significant shareholders include the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR), Statoil of Norway, and the US company Unocal, which has an 8.9% interest and became interested in the project no later than 1998. Unocal begins losing interest in a pipeline across Afghanistan around the same time (see December 5, 1998). Substantial amounts to finance the $3-4 billion Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline were arranged by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The consortium members put up the remaining 30%. [US Congress, 2/12/1998; Alexander's Gas and Oil Connections, 7/12/2002; Guardian, 12/1/2003; Guardian, 5/26/2005; Eurasia Daily Monitor, 5/31/2005; Turkish Weekly, 5/29/2006] Journalist Pepe Escobar comments: “In terms of no-holds-barred power politics and oil geopolitics, BTC is the real deal—a key component in the US’s overall strategy of wrestling the Caucasus and Central Asia away from Russia—and bypassing Iranian oil and gas routes… BTC makes little sense in economic terms. Oil experts know that the most cost-effective routes from the Caspian would be south through Iran or north through Russia. But BTC is a designer masterpiece of power politics—from the point of view of Washington and its corporate allies. US Vice President Dick Cheney, already in his previous incarnation as Halliburton chief, has always been a huge cheerleader for the ‘strategically significant’ BTC.” Escobar also mentions that the amount of Caspian oil was overestimated (see November 1, 2002), “the Caspian may hold only 32 billion barrels of oil—not much more than the reserves of Qatar, a small Gulf producer.” [Asia Times, 5/26/2005] However, the Caspian area is still believed to hold considerable amounts of natural gas. The construction of this pipeline does not halt plans for the construction of a natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan across Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean (see January 18, 2005).

Entity Tags: Pepe Escobar, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, British Petroleum, Statoil, State Oil Company of Azerbaijan, Unocal

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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