A consortium developing Kazakhstan's giant Kashagan oilfield said on Thursday it needs a few weeks to resume production cut by an industrial accident on Oct. 9, which means commercial output will not go ahead this month as planned.
Kazakhstan, Central Asia's largest economy, has been looking forward to revenues from Kashagan, the world's costliest project, which took nearly 13 years and about $50 billion to complete.
But two weeks after its Sept. 11 launch, production was halted after a gas leak was detected on a pipeline running from the offshore field to an onshore processing facility. It resumed on Oct. 6.
A similar leak was detected just days later, leading a repeated stoppage of output.
According to earlier comments by top Kazakh oil industry officials, the field's daily output before the second accident had exceeded 60,000 barrels per day (bpd). The field had been due to achieve commercial output of 75,000 bpd this month.
On Thursday, Kazakh officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
"In order to ensure the continued compliance with the highest safety requirements, it is anticipated that the activities relevant to inspections and investigations will take some weeks," the North Caspian Operating Company (NCOC) which develops Kashagan said in a statement.
"The oil and gas production remains shut in until the results of the expert studies are available and restart of the facilities can be carried out safely."
Kazakhstan, the second-largest post-Soviet producer after Russia which holds 3 percent of global recoverable oil reserves, hopes to join the world's superleague of oil producers thanks to Kashagan.
Output at the Caspian Sea field off western Kazakhstan, which is the world's biggest oil find in decades, is officially forecast to total 8 million tonnes next year, rising to 12 million tonnes in 2015.
Kazakhstan's oil output is forecast to grow to 82 million tonnes this year from 79.2 million tonnes in 2012.
NCOC includes Kazakh state oil firm KazMunaiGas, Italy's ENI , U.S. major ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell and France's Total, each holding 16.81 percent in Kashagan. Japan's Inpex owns 7.56 percent.
China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) acquired a 8.33 percent stake this year. The deal, estimated to be worth $5 billion, followed Kazakhstan's decision in July to use its pre-emptive rights to buy an 8.40 percent stake from U.S. oil major ConocoPhillips in the field for a similar price.