BP and its partners plan to invest $4.6 billion in 2004 in the company's three Azeri projects, up from just under $4 billion spent this year, BP Azerbaijan's President David Woodward said Monday.

He said that the investments in the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli offshore contract area in the Caspian Sea, which costs a total of $8.6 billion, are expected to increase 10 percent on the year to $2.4 billion in 2004.

It is expected that this year's associated gas output at the Chirag deposit, the only field in the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli area that has so far been developed, will amount to about 1 billion cubic meters.

By the end of 2004, when the development of the Azeri field starts, the area's total associated gas output is likely to rise to 2 billion cubic meters, which should partially offset Azerbaijan's gas deficit.

The operating costs at the Chirag deposit are estimated at $90 million in 2004, flat on the year.

This year, oil output at the deposit is expected at 6.6 million tons, up from 6.4 million tons in 2002.

Woodward said a total of nearly $1.4 billion will be spent on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline project in 2004, compared with $1.1 billion this year.

The pipeline is planned to transport oil from Azerbaijan's Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli offshore field, linking Baku with the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea.

The pipeline's annual throughput capacity is 50 million tons, which is the amount of oil expected to be produced annually at the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli area starting 2008.

Currently, annual production in the area is approximately 6.5 million tons.

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