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Besides Kashagan...

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In April this year Kazakhstan will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the development of coastal fields in the North Caspian.


According to data of the National Oil Company KazMunayGas (KMG), the potential of the Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea, excluding North Caspian project (Kashagan, Kairan, Aktoty and Kalamkas-Sea), exceeds 2bn 288 mln tons of crude oil.

After the discovery of Kashagan in 2000, Kazakh petroleum engineers made another achievement – in 2007 they discovered oil in Zhemchuzhina field (Khazar and Auezov structures) and N block (Rakushechnoye more and Nursultan structure). Seismic activities have been completed and the preparation of the concept of exploration drilling of Zhambyl, Satpaev and Makhambet are ongoing.

KMG’s exploration activities have slowed down due to absence of its own drilling rigs. The company is forced to attract the required experience and equipment from Russia and Azerbaijan. It is expected that in 2014 KMG will construct its own jack-up rig. Besides, KMG jointly with the Korean national oil company is finishing the assembly of Caspian Explorer drilling barge, which is currently located in Kouryk port. The first well from this barge will be drilled at Zhambyl structure. 


On the wall in the hall way of the Atyrau department of ecology there is a map of the Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea showing all the off-shore fields. The map shows the sectors that are prepared for the exploration drilling (see photo). Off-shore fields highlighted in yellow are the fields that are currently under development, in green - those that are prepared for drilling and in purple – the ones where oil and gas structures have been discovered.

In the special environmental restriction zone that is highlighted in red and located at the north coast of the sea, there are 13 exploration targets that haven’t received yet an official name and, therefore, preliminary called by female names: Irina, Larissa, Saniya, Roza, Tamara, Galina, Margarita and Eva.

Discovered oil and gas structures: Saule, Marina, Olga, Flora, Anar and Zhanar are located around the gigantic Kashagan field. To the south of Kashagan there are Aida, Daniya, Stella, Sofiya, Maira, Evgeniya and Marta. Altogether in the sea, in the vicinity of Atyrau, there are 30 oil and gas bearing structures.  The exploration activities on some of them haven’t been started yet.

GUNS AGAINST FISH                      

For confirmation of oil reserves, petroleum engineers use pump guns that, to a big extent, bother marine animals. In scientists’ opinion, seismic exploration activities have a harmful effect on the life activity of marine organisms. The range of the sounds used during seismic activities fully coincides with the “instruments” that are built-in the fish. The danger comes both from pump guns that are the sources of signals spreading to the depth with the frequency of 250 kHz and drilling stations.

However, the Deputy Director of the scientific-production centre of the fishing industry Yulia Kim says that local experts’ researches of the impact of the seismic instruments and pump guns onto a fish and plankton did not give any alarming results.  But, she also emphasized that, in any case, the growing activity in the sea disturbs marine animals.


According to Ruslan Tukenov, the chief of Atyrau ecological regulation department, recently two organizations: Zhambyl Petroleum (Zhambyl and Zhetysu structures) and AtyrauMunayGas (Bobek structure) have approached with the request to obtain permits to conduct activities in the Caspian Sea. KazMunayGas is carrying seismic activities at Ansagan and Abai blocks. Tukenov stated that the authorized body periodically publishes its announcements about public hearings of seismic activities in the Caspian Sea, but the public doesn't participate in those hearings. But, Makhambet Khakimov, the Chairman of Caspi Tabigaty NGO, says that the above mentioned projects never invited independent ecologists to their public hearings.

– Prior to seismic activities, the government should inspect the off-shore area, so that in case of pollution it would be possible to bring the subsoil users to responsibility, says Khakimov. –Agip KCO started to work on such program and they had good monitoring results. But then they realized that they are digging the hole for themselves and have not brought this job to the end. What if there is an accident in Kashagan? So this work hasn't been finished. Of course damage will made to environment during seismic activities and later during the field development …


In 2010 the accident in the Mexican Gulf caused an environmental catastrophe. In 152 days from the off-shore well over 5 millions of barrels of oil have been spilled into the open sea. British Petroleum dug deep for billions of dollars to pay compensation. Attention, here, should be paid to the following: the depth of the sea at the coast near the State of Louisiana is 1.5 kilometers, and the depth of the sea in the North Caspian sector is only 6-8 meters. And in case of similar emergency situation here, 1 day would be enough to destroy completely the sturgeon and other relict fauna of the Caspian Sea.   

By Murat Sultangaliev

January 18 2013, 19:48

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