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Baku milestone celebrated

September 20, 1999, 10:00 CEST

The fifth anniversary of the production sharing agreement for Azeri-Chirag will be celebrated in Baku today, 20 September.

This ceremony is being attended by the authorities in Azerbaijan and the oil companies involved in developing this Caspian field.

"We're very satisfied that early production and oil transport from Azeri-Chirag began as early as three years after the deal was signed, and that output has gone well," says Rolf Magne Larsen, senior vice president for International Exploration & Production.

"Azerbaijan ranks today as one of our two most important core assets internationally, in addition to western Africa."

Mr Larsen is participating in the fifth anniversary celebration, at the invitation of Azeri president Heydar Aliyev. The Norwegian authorities are represented by deputy petroleum and energy minister Erlend Grimstad.

Statoil belongs to the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) consortium, which was established to develop Azeri-Chirag and the deepwater section of the Gunashli field.

Looking back over the first five years, Mr Larsen emphasises that Statoil was early in showing its interest in new assignments in Azerbaijan. That represents one of its competitive advantages in the country.

Early production from Azeri-Chirag forms the basis for continued work on the field. Plans call for the AIOC to decide on the first phase of a main development in the fourth quarter of 2000.

"In parallel with this, we must reach a decision on the first phase for expanding export capacity from Azerbaijan," says Mr Larsen.

Statoil also participates in Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz field in the Caspian, where gas and condensate were proven earlier this year. That discovery confirms a potential future for the country as a gas exporter.

Mr Larsen believes it is valuable for the group to be involved in areas which are rich in oil and gas respectively. But he emphasises that commercialising gas in the region will be a major challenge.

"We have increased our appetite for assignments in Azerbaijan, and have ambitions to become an operator."