By Saule Tasbulatova
Tengizchevroil (TCO) got green light for its future growth project (FGP) at Tengiz worth $23 billion, as said Kurmangazy Iskaziyev, Deputy Chief of Kazmunaygas at a media conference in Almaty.
To an enquiry for more details, TCO responded after a week. The company's deputy general manager for government and public affairs David Macinnis turned down the request in extremely laconical manner:
"Tengizchevroil LLP confirms that the Republic of Kazakhstan approved the updated edition of the process scheme of Tengiz field development. TCO will give no more comments on the subject."
As is known, Future Growth Project is the third by volume project of TCO after Second Generation Plant and Sour Gas Injection project.
Thanks to FGP, TCO plans to boost crude production from current 25 million tons a year to 36 million.
With a project cost of $20-23 billion it is due to complete by 2018.
It is expected that no less than half the costs in FGP will be spent to increase formation pressure - the biggest challenge faced at the field in the recent years.
Speculating about the causes for pressure reduction at Tengiz, many blame TCO for using the technology of easy oil extraction.
"Any investor, besides money, should bring new technologies. However, in the case with TCO, we see nothing of the kind. As for FGP, they suggest drilling a new net of wells, it means, they want to increase production through more wells. I have never seen FGP's final design yet, but the main issue we normally raise at public hearings is delivery of module structures to Tengiz. Large dimension structures as huge as five-storey apartment blocks will be taken here on barges. To sail into the river's estuary they will need to dig a 50km channel. We offered them an easier option - avoiding wildlife area of the Ural, they could send the barges to coastal zones near Tengiz, then dig a 20km channel at shallow places to Prorva. I am not aware which option they have chosen yet," says Makhambet Khakimov, the leader of Kaspi Tabigaty environmental NGO.
According to Mr Khakimov, TCO's investment into FGP is virtually a simple reinvestment at the expense of Kazakhstan.
"In 2010, at Tengiz field were operating 105 wells and 16 at Korolev field. Within FGP they will drill another 71 producing and 21 injection wells. Once FGP started, they will drill 114 more wells to raise overall crude production through total 327 wells."
As to the sour gas injection project, Mr Khakimov stated:
"This short term maintenance of formation pressure is used to boost oil recovery efficiency. In fact, water would be more effective as it gives more volume and pushes oil upward."
To recall, in an interview to Ak Zhaik at the beginning of the year, veteran-oilman Makhash Rakhmetov expressed concern that FGP would eventually lead to a loss of Tengiz. He had calculated that 8-10 years after the project starts, crude output would drop down following the decrease in the formation pressure.