U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil is in line to take over as operator of the giant Kashagan field in an attempt to fix the beleaguered $50 billion project offshore Kazakhstan, industry publication Nefte Compass reported on Friday.
Discussions are continuing but Exxon could be appointed as soon as at the end of June, the newsletter quoted a senior Kazakh official as saying. Exxon was not immediately available for comments.
Italy's Eni was given the job of operating the project in 2001. It later lost its role as the sole lead operator following major delays and cost overruns.
Production finally started last September but was halted in early October after the discovery of gas leaks in the pipeline network.
Oil output may now not restart until early 2016, Kazakh Oil and Gas Minister Uzakbai Karabalin said in May, urging foreign partners to start replacing leaky pipelines at the deposit.
It could take another two-three years for the field to reach the targeted plateau output of 370,00 barrels per day.
The Kashagan shareholders are Eni, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, France's Total and Kazakh state oil company Kazmunaigas, each with 16.8 percent, and Japan's Inpex and China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) as junior partners. (Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov, editing by William Hardy).