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Oil and natural gas production is growing in Caspian Sea region

EIA estimates 48 billion barrels of oil and 292 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in proved and probable reserves in the Caspian basins. Almost 75 percent of oil and 67 percent of natural gas reserves are located within 100 miles of the coast.


Caspian countries are developing new oil and natural gas export capacity


Kazakhstan consortium achieves first oil production from Kashagan field

During the week of September 9, the North Caspian Operating Company, led by Italian oil company Eni, reported starting production from Kashagan, the largest oil field to be discovered in the past 35 years. Since the field’s discovery in June 2000, this consortium, including its four original members (Eni, Shell, Total, and ExxonMobil), has invested more than $40 billion in the project in attempts to overcome technical, political, and geographical challenges, making Kashagan not only the largest oilfield outside the Middle East, but also one of the world’s most expensive.

The recent start of the first of the 20 production wells included in the first phase of production comes eight years later than originally anticipated. This start was in advance of an October 2013 deadline set in the terms of the consortium’s production sharing agreement (PSA). Had this deadline not been met, the consortium would have had to forfeit compensation for expenditures. Eni forecasts output from the initial development to reach 180,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) by the end of 2013 and then rise to the full phase-one target of 370,000 bbl/d in 2014. Starting additional wells and meeting or approaching these targets will validate last week’s achievement.

Kashagan is an extremely complex project. Challenges to production include the field’s great depth (15,000 feet below the sea bed), reservoir pressure exceeding 10,000 pounds per square inch with lethal levels of hydrogen sulfide, and cold temperatures that make it unsuitable for typical fixed or floating drilling platform designs. Many of the participants have developed expertise in managing projects in remote cold areas, but few have managed projects with so many technical challenges.

Kashagan has an estimated 13 billion barrels of oil in proved reserves. This represents most of Kazakhstan’s offshore proved oil reserves and is roughly equivalent to Brazil’s entire proved oil reserves, both onshore and offshore. A possible second phase would boost production to 1.5 million bbl/d. However, the partners will need to determine if they will be able to recoup their expenses and reach an acceptable level of profitability before the project’s PSA terminates in 2041.

Kashagan and Tengiz, Kazakhstan’s largest onshore field, together account for a significant part of nearly 4 million bbl/d of oil production that EIA’s 2013 International Energy Outlook projects Kazakhstan will reach in 2040.

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