Azerbaijan, a resource-rich South Caucasus republic located at the crossroads of the East and West, celebrates a holiday of the energy industry workers on September 20.
The Oil Workers Day coincides with the day of the signing with 13 energy majors from eight countries in 1994 of the Contract of the Century, the biggest deal ever signed by Azerbaijan on the development of its major Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli fields in the Caspian Sea.
The contract, involving a $57 billion U.S. investment in the development of the Azerbaijani oil fields, gave a powerful impetus to the development of the country's oil industry.
The contract revived the oil and gas industry in the country and ensured further growth of the well-being and prosperity of Azerbaijani citizens.
The signing of the contract with international oil companies and its implementation was a brilliant result of the wise oil policy pursued by President Heydar Aliyev and paved the way for bolstering the country's geo-political standing and expediting its economic integration.
Under a presidential decree enacted in August 2001, this date went down in history as Oil Workers Day in Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan, an oil-rich land
Azerbaijan, referred to as the Land of Fire, is an ancient oil-rich land. The country is the pioneer of several discoveries in the oil and gas industry.
The history of the Azerbaijani oil industry dates back to the mid-19th century: the world's first oil well was drilled at the Bibi-Heybat field of Baku in 1847.
Oil turned Baku into a center of world oil trade and allowed it to exert an incredible influence on the entire Caucasus economic development.
Oil-rich Baku attracted world oil investors, who made millions on this industry. The Nobel brothers were the first to invest in oil extraction in Azerbaijan. The Nobel Brothers Oil Extracting Partnership, established in 1873, made a great contribution to the development of the oil industry in Azerbaijan.
Robert and Ludwig bought the first tanker in the Caspian Sea to reduce transport expenses, built an entire fleet of tankers, introduced railway tanks for oil transportation and used iron reservoirs for oil storage.
The Rothschild Company and Shell led by Samuel Markus were also involved in oil production in Baku. More than 50 percent of the oil extraction and 75 percent of the oil products commerce were carried out by the three foreign companies.
Another glorious page in the history of the oil industry is the start of extraction of oil from sea depths in the Caspian Sea in 1949. By commissioning Neft Dashlary (Oil Rocks), Azerbaijan laid the foundation for offshore oil production.
During that time Neft Dashlary was considered the island of miracles all over the world as there was no idea that it is possible to extract oil at sea depths.
Today Azerbaijan is the leading country in the region and the oil sector has great importance for the development of its economy. The windfall of oil revenues is directed to the development of the non-oil sector, which indicates flourishing of the economy.
However, oil and gas are unrecoverable reserves that may run out one day. Therefore, Azerbaijan established the state oil fund, SOFAZ, to wisely accumulate and manage the country's oil and gas revenues. Its primary objectives are to help maintain macroeconomic stability in the country and to generate wealth for present and future generations.
Another important area is human capital. SOFAZ spends part of its income on the education for Azerbaijani youth abroad.
Today's Azerbaijan has become an investor and raises funds in various sectors of the economy abroad. Oil revenues enable the country to implement projects in neighboring Georgia, Turkey and other countries.
Azerbaijan not only ensures its energy security, but is also a major energy supplier to Europe. Azerbaijan will export its gas to be produced during the second stage of Shah Deniz field development to European markets.
For centuries oil has been regarded as a major industry in Azerbaijan and a number of public places have been named to honor the people involved in the energy sector. Oil has made its tremendous contribution to the nation and will ensure its well-being for decades to come. Glory to Azerbaijani oil workers!