Kazakh environmental groups protest waste disposal technique

Jul 05, 2004 02:00 AM

Kazakh environmental groups said a waste disposal technique used by an international oil consortium at an oilfield would endanger the Caspian Sea. The consortium, led by Italy's ENI announced at public hearings in the Kazakh oil capital of Atyrau in June that it is planning to inject waste from its drilling operations at the Kashagan oil field back into the Caspian seabed.
The head of the Caspian Nature environmental group, Mokhambet Khakimov, said the high pressure at which the waste will be pumped into the seabed would risk contaminating the sea with poisonous hydrogen sulphide and mercaptan, a chemical that gives odourless natural gas a detectable smell.

The consortium will need to drill up to 280 wells before the start of oil extraction planned for 2007-08. Kashagan, which is the world's biggest oil discovery in the past 30 years, contains an estimated 4.8 bn tons of oil.
The Caspian sea is believed to have the world's third-largest untapped oil and gas reserves. Environmentalists have long been expressing alarm about the negative impact on the sea from oil exploration, blaming oil companies for the mysterious deaths of 30,000 Caspian seals in 2002. An official commission said the seals' deaths weren't linked to oil production.

Several environmental groups said the Led-led consortium had failed to convince them the injection method is safe.
"It's a new technology, but we weren't provided examples of its successful application elsewhere," said Caspian Nature's deputy head, Malik Isabekov.
Shinar Istleuova, the leader of the Ecotan group, said Kazakhstan's environmental groups were planning to seek international support for their campaign to prevent the consortium from using the technique without first testing it in land and providing substantial information that proves its safety.

Bolzhan Mukhambetaliyeva, from the Mangistau regional Environmental Control Agency, said before the consortium can use the offered method it will have to be approved by the Ministry of Ecology.
"The consortium hasn't so far submitted any papers to state agencies," she said.
The Italian oil and gas giant is leading a group of companies comprised of Total, Shell, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Japan's Inpex.

The initial output in 2008 is estimated at 75,000 bpd of oil, reaching the maximum plateau of 1.2 mm bpd in 2016, according to ENI.
The Central Asian nation aims at tripling its crude output to around 3 mm bpd by 2015.

Source: Canadian Press
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