Oil Giants Strike a Rich Vein in Kazakhstan

By Lewis, Leo | The Independent (London, England), July 29, 2001 | Go to article overview
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Oil Giants Strike a Rich Vein in Kazakhstan


Lewis, Leo, The Independent (London, England)


BP, Shell and a host of other major oil companies have joined forces to exploit a potentially massive oilfield discovered on the north coast of the Caspian Sea which could propel Kazakhstan into the premier league of oil-exporting countries.

Kazakhstan, the largest of the Soviet Union's former satellites, has based its economic growth on oil production, but revenues have so far been limited, and half of the 15 million-strong population lives on just pounds 20 per month.

But the discovery of potentially rich oil reserves in Kashagan could dramatically reverse that. Preliminary testing on the reservoir, which lies 45 miles south of the fishing town of Atyrau, has produced a range of estimates. Some believe the 350 million- year-old coral atoll could contain 10 billion barrels of recoverable oil; others go as high as 30 billion.

At 20 billion barrels it would be among the top five biggest oilfields in the world. Further early analysis has suggested that the Kashagan site could push the country's overall production levels to two million barrels a day, a figure that places it up in the top ranks of producers along with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iran. "They could easily be exporting three million barrels a day in 15 years, maybe 10," said Robert Ebel, director of energy and national security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. But the oil industry is not known for its restraint when drawing up its estimates.

Kazakhstan joins a variety of central Asian and South American countries whose potential has been talked to the heights by oil exploration companies.

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