Offshore Operations in the Caspian Shelf and Observation of Ecological Standards
Under the state programme for developing the Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea in the period up to 2015, various oil operations will be carried out on 25 to 29 different offshore structures (platforms and floating islands). This was disclosed by the deputy director of the oil industry department of Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Amantai Suyesinov, at public hearings in Aktau on a preliminary assessment of the impact of oil operations in the Caspian off Kazakhstan on the environment.
Suyesinov said that from 2006 to 2013 it was planned to carry out 2D and 3D seismic survey on 60 per cent of offshore structures. As regards engineering and geological surveys, they will start in 2006 and continue until 2015. Over the course of two years, starting from this year, electric prospecting work will be carried out and will continue until 2015. The construction of prospecting and exploratory wells will be carried out in parallel from 2006 to 2014. Industrial extraction is planned in nine sectors.
In line with the state programme, Suyesinov said that two artificial islands had already been built in 2003-2005, and 19 wells had been drilled of which four were production wells and the rest were exploratory and development test wells.
The building of 16 structures and the drilling of 144 wells are planned for the period 2006-2010. In 2011-2015 the number of new structures will grow to 38. In particular, 14 platforms and 26 artificial islands will be built, and 734 km of submarine pipeline will be laid. Furthermore, 469 new wells are to be drilled.
Linking the prospects for increasing the volume of hydrocarbon extraction in Kazakhstan with the implementation of the state programme on developing Caspian off Kazakhstan, Suyesinov announced forecasts for oil extraction in the Caspian in the region of 3 million tonnes in 2008, 18 million in 2010 and approximately 90 million tonnes in 2015. From 2015, the successful implementation of the programme will permit a stable level of extraction of 100 million tonnes of oil over 25 years.
As regards ecological aspects, Aleksandr Demchenko, director of the department for environmental research at the Nedra consulting centre, told the audience about a preliminary assessment that had been conducted on the impact on the environment of offshore oil operations in the Caspian off Kazakhstan. Available experience indicates that their impact does not as a rule go beyond the limits of natural fluctuations.
According to Demchenko’s data, “zero fault” technology will be used to conduct offshore oil operations in the Caspian shelf. Their application will be a guarantee that the sea is clean. If this condition is fulfilled and if there is accident-free operation at all stages of work, there will be no significant negative impact on the environment. Any anticipated impact will be most significant only in the zones assigned for technical construction.
It is intended to take the industrial waste to the shore and recycle it using modern technologies. Associated water can be recycled by injecting it back into the injecting wells to maintain pressure and by releasing it into the sea after purifying it to standard levels. The use of hermetic equipment should be examined to prevent contamination of the sea. It was nevertheless noted at the hearings that contamination of the sea on an insignificant scale is still possible at the stages of exploratory drilling and equipping the fields. This is linked to the use of more powerful energy sources and flares and the construction of extraction units and platforms, oil pipelines, accompanying infrastructure, the drilling of producing wells and so on.
An overall integral assessment of the impact of offshore oil operations on the air has shown that it will be within the limits of an average level over the course of three years. Neither will the impact on the seabed and seabed deposits go beyond average limits.
The conduct of offshore operations will at the same time have a positive impact on the socio-economic situation. In the oil-extraction sector alone, approximately 25,000 jobs will be created, with a further 75,000 jobs in the service sector. It is planned to establish branches of industry which are new for Kazakhstan. With the offshore oil operations, the country’s energy security will be guaranteed. All this will doubtless improve the living standards of the population of the Caspian region.
Demchenko emphasised that it was essential to observe a balance of ecological and economic interests while conducting offshore oil operations in the Caspian.
Natalya Butyrina from Aktau
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