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Rushing at Kashagan barged into the Law

April 1 2015, 12:11

By Laura Suleimenova

As it became known to Ak Zhaik newspaper, the North Caspian project operator NCOC tries to secure changes to the RoK Ecological Code. Otherwise the consortium will not meet the announced completion dates of new pipelines construction and renew oil production at Kashagan (in the second half of 2016).

"LET'S CHANGE THE LAW"

The editorial office got hold of the letter addressed to the RoK Minister of Energy Vladimir Shkolnik from NCOC Managing Director Stephane de Mahieu dated 16.02.2015. The letter says in part: "It is estimated that construction activities in the offshore area will commence in the first half of 2015, after approval of Technical Project Documentation and EIA. The majority of activities will be performed in the period from the end of ice season in the North Caspian Sea to latye autumn 2015 before ice formation and will be resumed in spring of 2016. Thus, ice conditions in the North Caspian Sea for 3-4 months and a ban on certain activities during the period from April 1 to July 15, to ensure the normal spawning fish and fry slope into the sea will have a significant negative impact on schedule of works.

Thereby, given the importance of the earliest start-up of Kashagan field Experimental Program facilities you are kindly requested to provide support in possible introduction of relevant amendments to the wording of Article 257 and 258 of the RoK Environmental Code regarding a possibility to conduct certain activities on construction of the pipelines in the Northeast Caspian Sea from 1 April to 15 July provided that such activities are approved byrelevant RoK state authorities.

We enclose herewith our proposed changes to the Environmental Code, with justification as comparative table.”

The specified Articles of the Environemtal Code belong to Chapter 38: “The Environmental Requirements On Conducting Of Economic And Other Activities In The State Preserved Area In The Northern Part Of The Caspian Sea”. According to those articles in the above mentioned period “in order to ensure a smooth progress of fish spawning and slope juvenile fish in the sea a construction and geophysical works, well testing and shipping in testing areas of the Ural and Volga rivers within a radius of 50 kilometers of the most extended seaward point of the Kazakhstani part of the terrain delta of the Volga River and most extended seaward point of the terrain delta of the Ural River and in a strip with the width of 15 kilometers from the coastline, between the borders of the above mentioned delta spaces and further East up to the Emba shall be prohibited during the period from 1 April to 15 July. In this case shall be allowed shipping industry of vessels carrying out fishing activities and its transporting, issuing, replacing, removing and checking of navigational tools, research and inspection activities in coordination with the authorized government bodyin the scope of protection, reproduction and use of wildlife."

The ban on activities is connected both with spawning of fish and the need for preservation of birds in nesting places (reed thickets, sandy coastal bars and islands).
 
We will note that, according to the ordinary staff of regional territorial inspectorate of forestry and fauna, during initial pipelines layout activities, they was not similar rush.

The activities were performed with observance of terms of ban, and pipes were laid by fits and starts. For this or other reasons, the activities has been dragged for 5-6 years. However, judging by NCOC letter to the Ministry of Energy, this time similar "luxury" for the consortium is inadmissible. To recall, expenses that the consortium is going to incur for replacement of pipelines are non-refundable.

"WHO WILL CANCEL IT, IT’S THE LAW"

The official response to editorial inquiry addressed to the Ministry, despite overdue dates, has not been received yet. Meanwhile, as our sources reported, in the Ministry of Energy they didn't support NCOC’s position.

During recent visit to Atyrau Bagdat Azbaev, the Chairman of Committee of forestry and fauna under the Ministry of Agriculture and his deputy Nariman Zhunusov, reported to AkZhaik newspaper that currently NCOC’s preliminary EIA for replacement of pipelines is under reconsideration.

We will approve it if they eliminate the faults noted in the remarks (see "Old pipes to stay at sea bottom" -L.S.) and provide a guarantee for compensation of damage to fish resources caused during construction activities, – says B. Azbaev.

It is calculated as per specially approved method. And subsoil user has a choice: it either pays the calculated sum in terms of money, or provides the project on reproduction of fish resources.

What is the amount of guarantee?

300 million tenge. But they haven’t provided them yet.

The ban on activities in offshore area during the period from April 1 to July 15 is still in force? – we asked N. Zhunusov.

Certainly. This is our main requirement. We are talking about the Environmental Code and who can cancel it? There are specific dates and coordinates in a coastal zone, where activities cannot be performed. And if anybody during that period will perform any activities, then they will bear responsibility in accordance with the law.

Meanwhile, according to informal information, some activities on the coast of the Caspian Sea are currently ongoing. To recall, the contract for replacement of two pipelines from D island at Kashagan to Bolashak plant has been awarded to the Italian oilfield services company Saipem through its Ersai subsidiary ("Ersai Caspian Contractor"). The contract sum is $1,8 billion.

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