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2011 Year of Azeri Natural Gas?

This year will be a decisive year in Azerbaijan's efforts to become a major regional energy player, an adviser to the state energy company said.

Azerbaijan is emerging as a powerhouse in the regional energy sector. The country's massive offshore Shah Deniz field holds trillions of cubic feet of gas. The second phase of the field, expected online by 2017, would triple Azerbaijan's gas production.

BP aims to use around $20 billion to develop the second phase of the field.

The European Union is courting Baku to help break the Russian stranglehold on the regional energy sector. Moscow, meanwhile, is seeking ties with the country in order to gain a foothold in Central Asia.

Murat Heydarov, an adviser for the state-owned State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan, said he was upbeat about the prospects for this year.

"2011 is a decisive year," he was quoted by the Financial Times as saying. "In the future, we hope our gas will reach beyond our neighbors and go to European markets."

Azerbaijan is facing a political struggle as the unrest spilling across much of the Arab world makes its way east. The Times notes that recent social pressure on President Ilham Aliyev doesn't threaten his hold on power or his natural gas ambitions.

Source: UPI

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