On September 11, Total and its co-venturers* began production from the Kashagan field, located in the Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea. Phase 1 output is expected to average 300,000 barrels per day at plateau.
Discovered in 2000, the giant Kashagan field is one of the most complex developments ever undertaken by the oil and gas industry. The project was kicked off in 2004 and required the use of exceptional resources and the implementation of large-scale innovative solutions.
A host of challenges had to be met before Phase 1 first oil could be achieved.
- Logistical challenges arose from the very shallow water (three to four meters) and landlocked situation of the Caspian Sea, home to Kashagan. This meant that conventional offshore technology could not be used or appropriate platforms brought in. As a result, artificial islands had to be built. In addition, extreme temperatures in winter, as low as -40°C, made operations very difficult from October to March, when the sea freezes over. To protect the facilities from enormous slabs of drift ice, giant barriers were built.
- There were many technological challenges:
- Kashagan’s oil reservoir lies 4,200 meters below the seabed and pressure is high (770 bar). Cutting-edge expertise in drilling and well architecture was called for.
- The presence of hydrogen sulfide, a very sour gas, necessitated the use of sweetening processes, adapted steels that are corrosion resistant, and stringent safety measures.
- Most of the associated gas will be reinjected into the original geological formation at high pressure, representing a huge industrial challenge.
- There are also environmental challenges. The northern Caspian Sea is an important migratory and breeding area for endemic species of birds and for fish such as sturgeon. The operating company has made protecting the field’s fragile ecosystem a priority and is forging responsible partnerships with NGOs.