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Old pipes to stay at sea bottom

February 26 2015, 00:00

By Laura Suleimenova

The North Caspian Project Operator NCOC continues to implement the pipeline construction project from D island to Bolashak plant. According to our information, the costs of the consortium for new pipelines in 2015 will make $1,4 billion. The total budget of the Kashagan project this year will make over $4,2 billion.

GUARANTEES AND DOUBTS

NCOC plans to perform the following activities: purchase, delivery and coating of new X60 carbon steel pipes with corrosion-resistant alloy, installation of pipeline sections on an on-shore complex and in a transitional zone, installation of pipeline sections on a wetland site and off-shore complex, as well as corresponding preparatory work and other auxiliary activities.

Besides, on off-shore complex gas compressors of instant evaporation will be fully replaced. The analysis of the technical project and purchase of equipment has been scheduled for 2015. The development of design engineering, purchases and preliminary assembly has been scheduled for 2015 and activities at the production sites will start in 2016.

As for the commencement of activities on pipeline construction - they could be changed considerably. “Ak Zhaik” learnt that Atyrau regional inspection of forestry and fauna (territorial division of the Ministry of Agriculture) has challenged the project.

In particular, the inspection was puzzled by NCOC plans for future use of initial pipelines that remained in the sea. To recall, new pipelines on the bottom of the sea will  be laid in parallel to the old ones. In particular, in design documents the consortium specified that “conservation of pipelines will be carried out by filling the pipelines with nitrogen under pressure”, and also that the researches are ongoing as to alternative use of off-shore section of pipelines that are under conservation.  

The Atyrau regional inspection represented by its head Murat Ermekkaliev demanded that NCOC should guarantee that rejected pipelines will never be used for pumping oil and gas. However, NCOC in their cover letter dated 10.02.2015 NCOC and EIA developer - KAPE LLP both give such guarantee. However, there are no answer to the questions – what they mean by the word “alternative” use, how many years these pipes will stay in the water and why they should be kept at the bottom of the sea.

In addition, the inspection had comments regarding the responsibility of the consortium and the amounts of compensation payments for damage to fish resources and biota during future pipeline construction activities. The inspection also demanded that the project should include into design documentation the banning of activities in case they detect seals and suspension of dredging works during spawning migration of sturgeon fish.

TIMID SEALS

The answers of the project designer and NCOC to the last remarks in summary are as follows: “… During long-term monitoring over the water area in the Kazakhstan sector (2007-2014) of the Caspian Sea the analysis of the seals’ death was carried out. It was revealed that a large number of seals dies in illegal poachers’ nets and hand-made fishing gears.

Seals in water are very mobile and can, if necessary, to increase their speed up to 10m/sec. They sensitively react to factors of concern and quickly escape to safe distances and after that they lead a usual life. Therefore it is expected that small numbers of seals that could appear around the planned activities during the warm period of year, will themselves avoid the construction activities zones, considering noise, light and physical presence of equipment and people”.

Regarding sturgeons: “The adult producers of sturgeon fishes that make spawning migrations from deep-water southern and central parts of the Caspian Sea, have to adapt gradullay to the conditions of the shallow Northern Caspian Sea. As benthonic fishes, they prefer to migrate at the greatest possible depths. During the whole long-term period of monitoring the Northern Route of field pipelines, not a single case of catching adult producer-sturgeon in a reed zone at depths less than 2 m was recorded. Thus, the project provides for dredging works at depths less than 2 m”.

The final decision about approval will be again made in Astana, by the Committee of forestry and fauna. Sitting right next to Ak Orda that is more concerned about replenishment of the state budget, will they manage to postpone the commencement of activities, actually, for half a year (taking into account the period of spawning and giving birth to seal puppies)?

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