Neft Daşları is a unique city in the world located on the Caspian Sea. Its expansion has been carried out solely on the basis of the industrial needs generated by oil production. Its hundreds of kilometers of road form an articulated skeleton expanding over the water.
The Soviet Atlantis
Neft Daşları (Neft Dashlari or Oily Rocks) is an industrial settlement consisting of platforms built on the Caspian Sea. The artificial archipelago was built about 40 km from the coast of Azerbaijan, and more than 60 km from the capital, Baku. In 1949, an important oil deposit was discovered after several years of geological studies in the area, and paves the way for offshore extraction. The settlement is immediately built to start as soon as possible to exploit the deposit located at 1100m beneath the Caspian Sea. Two years later all the necessary infrastructure, landing docks, drilling platforms and oil tanks were built and extraction started. It was the first offshore oil platform built in the world and the first oil platform in Azerbaijan.
Building on the sea
What began as a single path on the sea became a network of artificial islands, connected in 1952 by a trestle bridge structure. These metal bridges connecting the different parts allowed the expansion of the structure and the increase of oil extraction. Originally called Chernie Kamni (“Black Stones”), the city on water began to expand, and in 1958 large scale construction started on the settlement. Thanks to an underwater reef, the sea depth is only 20m there, which facilitates the construction of solid ground. In the first 15 years, nine-story hostels, power plants, bakery factories and lemonade workshop as well as cultural places, and a park were built to form a constellation linked by the ramifications of the bridges. In the 1970s the platform continues to evolve significantly and the network of footbridges spreads to exceed 200 km in length, the artificial city covered about 7 ha and up to 5000 people work there simultaneously. In 1981 the oil was transported by an underwater pipeline, making it possible to get rid of boats and making some of the oil platform installations obsolete.
In 60 years, the soviet industrial city produced more than 170 million tons of oil. It was estimated in 2009 that about 30 million tons was still extractable and that’s why the City on Water is still home to 2000 people today. However, only 45km of the 300km of road are still usable because the effervescence on the island has diminished and the infrastructure of the platform has evolved significantly.
Although the sprawling platform is gradually falling into decay, it should still be functional for about thirty more years, but one can wonder about the future of this unique structure hinged in the middle of the sea.