Kazakh oil and gas reserves are waiting
Kazakhstan's oil and gas reserves could rise 5-fold if drilling later this year in the Caspian Sea confirms initial
estimates, an official from Kazakhoil said.
Investment director Zhakyp Marabaev told that if the forecasts are correct, then total Kazakh reserves will rise to 117 billion barrels of oil and 282 tcf of gas.
The bulk of the reserves are under the mineral-rich Caspian Sea where experts have estimated Kazakhstan's share to be 95 bn barrels of oil and 177 tcf of gas.
"Exploratory drilling in the offshore area shall start later this year and its results will show the correctness of the estimates," Marabaev said.
He added that significant new reserves may also be discovered in the continental part of Kazakhstan and in the Aral Sea shelf in the east of the country.
"New field discovery prospects in the Aral Sea are assessed as being very high," he said.
Proven oil reserves of 20.5 bn barrels could support production up to 1.5 mm bpd, 3 times higher than current output.
Oil production could jump to 2.6 mm bpd in the next 15 years but the rise will depend on whether enough pipelines are built to allow land-locked Kazakhstan to pump its crude to world markets.
"If no new additional pipelines are constructed, total oil exports from Kazakhstan to the international markets shall stop at 1.4 mm bpd," said Marabaev.
He added that Kazakhstan's domestic demand was not likely to grow very much and most new production could be exported.
Oilmen have long touted the Caspian, surrounded by Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, as the
world's next great oil frontier.
But development has been held up by squabbling over the legal status of the sea and disagreement about pipeline routes.
Seven pipeline projects have been proposed from the Caspian but some of the routes are rapidly becoming the subject of a diplomatic tussle between the US and Russia.
The US government has been pushing hard for oil and gas pipeline routes which bypass Iran and at the same time avoid Russia.
Another issue which has held up progress is years of wrangling over who owns what resources under the Caspian Sea,
but agreement now seems close.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev are due to sign a pact carving up northern part of the Caspian seabed during Yeltsin's visit to Kazakhstan in July.