By Steven Piper
On the surface, it might appear that former Soviet Union republic Azerbaijan and Signal Hill (SH) have nothing in common. However, below that surface, literally, they share a black, valuable, and inseparable link– oil.
In an effort to understand how the oil industry functions in the United States, four representatives from Azerbaijan, which shares borders with Armenia, Russia, Iran, and Georgia, have been touring the country and made a stop in Signal Hill this week to learn about Signal Hill Petroleum’s (SHP) oil facilities and how the local industry affects the community. According to their website, SHP recovers 1 million barrels on an annual basis and controls over 95 percent of the Long Beach/Signal Hill major oil field.
Among the four visitors were: Shikhaliyev Jeyhun, chief of the Ecological Measurement and Waste Management Department; Guliyev Oktay, manager of Monitoring Expedition; Huseyn Farah, coordinator of the Cultural Heritage Department; and Sadigova Sevinj, researcher for Baku State University.
Representing Signal Hill on a bus tour Monday were numerous Council members, Mayor Ed Wilson, Director of Community Development Gary Jones, and SHP executives, including Executive Vice President David Slater and Director Debra Russell.
Stops in the tour included: the tribute to the roughnecks statue on Skyline Drive; Los Coyotes Diagonal near the traffic circle, to observe seismic trucks in action; SHP field near California Avenue and Spring Street, where buyer remediation of the land is taking place; and the SHP distribution center, which converts gas into electricity.
The Azerbaijani visitors are participating in a program called “Environmental Protection in the United States,” which is sponsored by the Department of State and administered by the Meridian International Center, a nonprofit organization that seeks to “create sustainable global partnerships through leadership exchanges, international collaboration and cultural diplomacy.” The program is scheduled to take place from June 14 to July 2.
The program’s objective is to demonstrate how policies and law enforcement guide the daily activities of oil companies and environmental agencies on all governmental levels, while also gaining an understanding of awareness campaigns’ impact on social responsibility.
Huseyn Farah, who holds a Ph.D. in historical science, was the only Azerbaijani guest willing to speak to the press. Farah, who works for the NGO EcoSphere, said that oil plays a pivotal role in her country. “The entire economy is based on oil and gas production,” she said. “When Azerbaijan was a part of the Soviet Union, it played an important role in World War II. Out of 100 Soviet aircraft, more than 70 were using aviation fuel from Azerbaijan.”
After officially gaining its independence in 1991, the country has been striving to independently develop its own oil industry.
By the time the trip is finished, the visitors will have toured: Houston, Texas; Los Angeles and Signal Hill; and Boston and Worcester, Massachusetts.