Ice in the northern section of the Caspian sea, offshore Kazakhstan, is preventing inspection of offshore pipelines at the giant Kashagan oil field.
Total’s head of exploration and production, Arnaud Breuillac said that the ice is melting, and after it melts, the consortium will hopefully be able to identify the extent of the problem and to determine how long it will take to fix it.
Breuillac also added that, should Kashagan resume production this year it won’t be much, Bloomberg has reported.
Kazakhstan’s Minister of Oil and Gas Uzakbai Karabalin said earlier this week that results of the investigation into potential micro cracks in the field’s pipeline infrastructure are expected in May.
He said that if the investigation showed the problem was only with the onshore section of the pipeline, the resumption of production could be expected later this year.
But he added that if the micro cracks are discovered in the subsea pipelines, it would take longer for production to resume.
The field, described as one of the largest crude oil fields discovered in the past 40 years, has been closed since October last year following a gas leak. The incident occurred only a month after production started. Partners in the field are Total 16.81%, Eni 16.81%, Shell 16.81%, ExxonMobil 16.81%, KazMunayGas 16.81%, CNPC 8.4% et Inpex 7.56%.
Most expensive energy project
The stakeholders have reportedly splashed $50 billion on development of the field, discovered in 2013, but according to CNN Money, Kashagan is the world’s most expensive energy project valued at $116 billion.
Located 80 kilometers off the coast of Kazakhstan, the Kashagan site lies in the Northern area of the Caspian Sea. Water depths range from 2 to 6 meters, and temperatures fluctuate between -40°C and +40°C throughout the year.
To protect the installations from enormous drifting slabs of ice, 11 million tons of rock were extracted from Kazakh quarries to build giant dikes.
The shallowness of the water – only 2 to 6 meters – ruled out the use of traditional platforms, so a unique solution had to be found. This involved building an artificial island 1.7 kilometers long for the processing units and a number of smaller satellite islands for the production wells.
The Kashagan field represents the largest oil accumulation in the North Caspian Sea with estimated reserves of approximately 35 billion barrels of oil in place.