After years of delays and soaring costs, the first batch of export crude oil has been shipped from the giant Kashagan oil field.
The development, in the north Caspian Sea, was hit by its latest set back last year, after issues with the pipeline infrastructure built to develop the complex-but-huge high-H2S content (190,000ppm H2S) field.
Over the past year, the North Caspian Operating Co. (NCOC) has been rebuilding the pipeline infrastructure, comprising two, 95km pipelines.
"Following the successful pipelines replacement, the field has been recently re-opened," said Italian producer Eni, which is part of the NCOC consortium, alongside Total, ExxonMobil, Shell, Inpex, China National Petroleum Corp and and state-owned firm KazMunayGas.
Production is expected to gradually increase up to a first level of 180,000 b/d, with a target level of 370,000 b/d to be achieved by the end of next year, says Eni.
Kashagan is one of the largest oil fields discovered in the last 40 years, with estimated reserves of 35 billion bbl of oil in place, Eni says, or 9-13 billion bbl recoverable, according to Kazakhstan's government. The present project is seen as the first experimental phase of the mega-field's development, with future phases still being planned.
According to the Financial Times, the project was originally scheduled to cost about US$10 billion, but has spiraled over two decades to more than $50 billion.
It was brought on stream in 2013, but quickly shut-in after a gas leak was found.
Image from NCOC.