Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the opening of 26th International Caspian Oil & Gas-2019 Exhibition and Conference29 may 2019, 11:15
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
The “Caspian Oil and Gas” exhibition starts today. I congratulate you on this occasion. This is a very significant event. The exhibition is one of the most important international events on a global scale.
The exhibition is being held for the 26th time and interest in it shows no sign of abating. This year’s show is joined by about 300 companies from more than 30 countries, and this is an excellent indicator. For 26 years, the exhibition has attracted the attention of oil companies from all over the world. This indicates that Azerbaijan’s oil and gas resources will be of great interest to foreign companies today and in the future.
I want to recall the first exhibition. The first exhibition held in 1994 introduced Azerbaijan to the world and informed the world about Azerbaijan’s ample oil and gas resources. At that time, information about Azerbaijan was very limited, our country was a newly-independent state in the first years of independence. Of course, there was practically no information about the potential of Azerbaijan in the world, in particular the oil and gas world. The exhibition and the attention paid to Azerbaijan played a very important role in the further development of the oil and gas sector in Azerbaijan. Taking this into account, I want to once again express my gratitude to participants of the exhibition because their decision to hold it in Baku and the subsequent long-term cooperation with us deserve approval, of course.
In 1994, when the first exhibition was held, the situation in our country was completely different. Azerbaijan was in a very difficult economic situation. Political stability had just been restored. The first years of independence were very difficult for our country and people. The civil war, the occupation of our lands, the economic and political crisis dealt a major blow to the development of the country. There was no clear idea of its development. Of course, the only way out for a country that has rich oil and gas resources was to restore stability and enable rational use of oil resources, so that investment could flow in and the economic potential of our country could be enhanced. Dividends from the 1994 exhibition, including political, allowed us the opportunity to develop the oil and gas sector and the country as a whole even today.
Our modern oil policy is associated with the name of Heydar Aliyev because it was after he had taken up leadership of Azerbaijan that the situation in the country began to stabilize, Azerbaijan embarked on the path of development and foreign investors believed in us. At that time, trust was the main prerequisite. No-one would have made major investments in Azerbaijan without that because Azerbaijan was known as a very risky country then. Great effort was made to attract investors here. The contract on the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli oil fields signed in September 1994 gave a strong impetus to our development. It is no coincidence that due to the scope and significance of this contract it is described as the “Contract of the Century”. After the signing of the “Contract of the Century”, large-scale investment started to flow into in Azerbaijan. At the same time, other contracts were signed. The "Contract of the Century" is of great importance. Its value is still quite large. Two years ago, the contract was extended and will be valid until 2050. This means that Azerbaijan’s oil and gas resources, as well as the oil and gas produced from the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli fields, will serve the Azerbaijani people and state for many years to come.
I should also note that the exhibition provided great support for the Agreement on the Shah Deniz gas condensate field, because this agreement was signed during the exhibition held in 1996. At that time, it was not easy at all to attract foreign investors to the Shah Deniz field. Most foreign companies were more interested in oil fields because, of course, they are more attractive in terms of profit. Interest in gas fields was not particularly high. At that time, the gas factor, in general, was not particularly significant from the point of view of energy security. Therefore, the signing of the contract on the Shah Deniz field was also very beneficial for our country, and today we are seeing the benefits of that because the gas produced from Shah Deniz is now supplied to the domestic market and, at the same time, increases our export potential. Shah Deniz today is the resource base for the Southern Gas Corridor. Thanks to the existence and development of the Shah Deniz field, the giant Southern Gas Corridor project is being implemented today.
The signing of contracts for the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli and Shah Deniz fields is of historic significance. Contracts were signed after that as well. Some of them have been terminated. We often face such situations in international practice when drilling operations are carried out but sufficient resources are not discovered. However, let me repeat that Shah Deniz and Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli account for much of our oil and gas sector.
Of course, the next item on our agenda was the construction of oil and gas pipelines, and it was also resolved successfully. I think that this is also a historic project. By commissioning giant oil and gas pipelines in 2006-2007, Azerbaijan acquired great export opportunities. The oil and gas produced in the Caspian Sea began to be supplied to domestic and foreign markets.
The value of the “Contract of the Century” was also in the fact that for the first time foreign oil companies were invited to the Caspian Sea and began to develop the rich oil and gas fields of the Caspian. After the construction of export oil and gas pipelines, Azerbaijan certainly entered a new phase and began negotiations on other fields. Some of them are already in operation. I believe that in the coming years we will be producing energy resources from new fields.
The implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor is a historic event. This giant infrastructure project is of great importance both for our country and for other countries. Many highly important steps were taken for the implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor. A special place here, of course, belongs to international cooperation because it would have been impossible to implement this gigantic project without large-scale international cooperation. The TANAP project signed between Azerbaijan and Turkey in 2012 is an important part of the Southern Gas Corridor. Last year, exactly a year ago 29 May, the official opening of the Southern Gas Corridor took place at the Sangachal Terminal. Thus, very important steps were taken to implement this major project. As you know, the Southern Gas Corridor consists of four components. Three of them have already been implemented and the fourth project is being successfully implemented now. After the commissioning of TANAP last year, Azerbaijan began to export even more of its gas resources to foreign markets. Thus, very important conditions were created and significant steps were taken to implement the Southern Gas Corridor.
Azerbaijan successfully cooperates with many foreign energy companies, and this cooperation has a long history. Cooperation with any company is very important for us, but I want to highlight BP because it is our strategic partner, a strategic investor. We have been cooperating for 25 years now. This cooperation is very successful both for our country and for the company. I believe that it is exemplary and has a great future. As I have already noted, work on the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli field alone will be carried out at least until 2050. The Shah Deniz gas condensate field will also be developed for decades after that. Thus, our strategic partnership has excellent prospects.
Of course, we have implemented these projects also thanks to external financial resources. We have invested our own funds but also received funds in the form of loans from international financial institutions. In this regard, I would like to say a few words about the support these institutions provided to Azerbaijan. The World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Asian Development Bank, the European Investment Bank — these leading financial institutions of the world have allocated funds for the implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor, thus providing very important support for the implementation of the project. At the same time, the allocation of these loans is a manifestation of confidence in the successful future of Azerbaijan.
We are cooperating with the European Union to implement this project. In 2011, a Joint Declaration on the Southern Gas Corridor was adopted between the European Union and Azerbaijan. On our initiative, meetings of the Advisory Council of the Southern Gas Corridor are annually held in Baku. The fifth meeting was held in February this year. These meetings sum up the results of the work done and, most importantly, talk about the work ahead. Of course, we are confident that we will achieve the successful implementation of this gigantic project, because there are no problems with the implementation of this project from the point of view of international cooperation and in terms of financial resources.
Earlier, I shared my opinion on international cooperation. I want to say again: we can implement such giant projects only within the framework of international cooperation. It is impossible to implement these projects without that. We have managed to achieve this thanks to oil and gas pipelines, investments, the participation of international financial institutions and, of course, joint efforts. I believe that Azerbaijan was able to fully achieve its goal in this matter.
It is no secret that energy security issues are of great importance these days. Energy security issues are issues of national security of countries. From this point of view, the projects Azerbaijan has implemented and those being implemented on our initiative ensure the energy security of both our country and many countries. Today, Azerbaijan’s oil and gas are exported to world markets along various routes. Issues of energy security and diversification of energy resources are of great importance today. The role of our country in this area is highly appreciated. Azerbaijan pursues a consistent and successful policy on these issues.
These projects are of great importance for the country's economy. Just imagine – if the “Contract of the Century” had not been signed in 1994 and Azerbaijan did not export its rich oil and gas resources to world markets, our economic situation would be completely different. Therefore, these projects have given a powerful impetus to the economy of the country. Azerbaijan has acquired new opportunities for improving the business environment and personnel training. Today, the vast majority of people working for foreign companies operating in Azerbaijan and those involved in oil and gas operations are citizens of Azerbaijan. Young Azerbaijani specialists who have been trained and have received excellent education are doing a lot for our country now. Personnel training, the improved the business environment and international cooperation – all this became possible as a result of this project and has brought huge benefits to our country.
The establishment of the State Oil Fund and resolution of the most pressing issues through this fund has also become possible as a result of our successful oil policy. Over a hundred IDP settlements have been built through the State Oil Fund. The diversification of the Azerbaijani economy and investments in infrastructure projects are also associated with these projects. In recent years, we have implemented our key infrastructure projects, and work in this direction continues. Azerbaijan is successfully addressing issues related to road construction, gasification and electricity. Gasification has reached 95 percent. This would be impossible if we did not have sufficient gas resources. In other words, the implementation of these projects and the overall oil strategy of Azerbaijan the foundation of which was laid by Heydar Aliyev have created a completely different situation and our country began to develop rapidly. We began to invest oil revenues in the development of the non-oil sector and in human capital. The construction of more than 3,000 schools, over 600 medical institutions, the renewed infrastructure, the implementation of social projects and the solution of social problems of our citizens – all this is based on our successful oil policy. The main task facing the country today is to reduce dependence on the oil and gas factor and develop the non-oil sector. Important steps are also being taken in this direction. According to the latest World Bank report, Azerbaijan ranks 25th in terms of the business environment globally. This indicates that we are taking very important steps to diversify the economy. At the same time, we should know that the oil and gas sector will continue to play a very important role in the country's economy.
I would like to acknowledge the contribution of Azerbaijani oil workers today. The profession of an oil worker has always been very honorable in Azerbaijan, and it is still the case today. Azerbaijani oil workers are doing enormous work for the successful development of our country, show heroism and increase the power of our state in difficult conditions at sea.
Today’s Azerbaijani realities indicate that we are on the right track. Launched in 1994 and successfully continuing to this day, our oil and gas policy is one of the key contributors to Azerbaijani realities. Baku today is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We are successfully implementing the regional development program. Of course, we must continue to supply our budget more at the expense of the non-oil sector, and we are getting there. However, we should also know that the oil and gas sector will remain a priority for us.
I want to once again congratulate you on the occasion of this exhibition. I say thank you to organizers of the exhibition and wish the exhibition success. Thank you!