Agip KCO. The Kashagan Story
The Kashagan field, 80 km south of Atyrau in the shallow waters of the north eastern Caspian is the first large-scale offshore petroleum development in Kazakhstan.
The field extends over a surface of approximately 75 km x 45 km. Current estimates are that there are some 9 – 13 billion barrels of recoverable reserves. It is being developed by a consortium comprising Eni, state oil company KMG, Total, Shell, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Japan’s Inpex.
Apart from Kashagan, other discoveries in 11 blocks defined under the North Caspian Sea Production Sharing Agreement, signed with the Kazakhstan government 1997, include Aktote, Kairan and Kalamkas.
Kashagan production will come from a series of islands. So far four islands have been built and 37 wells have been drilled. Production will increase in phases with the current estimate for Full Field Production being 1.5 million barrels of oil per day.
The Bolashak onshore processing facility, currently under construction 32 km east of Atyrau, is designed to process 300 000 barrels of oil per day (bopd), expandable to 450 000 bopd, and 4.4 billion m³ of gas per year.
Support for operations comes from Bautino supply base in Mangistau region. The ice free port also houses the company’s oil spill response center.
Agip KCO’s mission is to achieve first commercial production in a safe and environmentally sound manner while increasing development opportunities for local communities, maximizing the participation of Kazakhstani companies in operations and generating value for the consortium.
What makes the undertaking such a pioneering project is the unique number of challenges found in one single project.
Winters are harsh and temperatures can drop to -40ºC (-40ºF), while summer temperatures can reach +40ºC (+104ºF). The sea waters are frozen for 4-5 months, from November to March, and the ice thickness averages about 0.6 to 0.7 m. For the rest of the year, the North Caspian is subject to rapid sea level fluctuations, up to one meter, due to storm surges and winds. The combination of ice, shallow waters and sea level fluctuations represents a significant logistical challenge.
The deep reservoir, some 4,000 to 5,000 meters below ground, has a high reservoir pressure of some 800 bar and a hydrogen sulphide content of between 16-20 percent. The success of Kashagan depends on the sustained ability to handle these challenges by bringing together unparalleled technological solutions and the extensive industry experience of the consortium members.
Among the technological solutions being employed are:
· Construction: Kashagan’s artificial islands are constructed from millions of tons of rock placed on the seabed and secured by steel sheet pilings and shielded by ice protection structures. The materials used for offshore construction consist of high quality steels of a specific chemical composition purposely produced to resist the low winter temperatures.
· High reservoir pressure: Sour Gas Compressors have been created specifically for Kashagan, at the highest power (35 MW) and pressure (800 bar) combination in the industry. “Smart wells” drilling technology, innovative well design and materials are being used to accommodate the high pressure and huge size of the reservoir.
· High H2S content and oil-gas ratio: New technological processes are being identified to remove H2S offshore, limit the sour gas and sulphur production and produce more oil. One of these processes is the re-injection of raw gas back into the reservoir at very high pressure.
· Deep reservoir: Agip KCO continues to acquire new information about the 5 000 m deep Kashagan reservoir using advanced seismic acquisition methods, including 3D technology.
· Logistics: Agip KCO uses a combination of helicopters, boats and hovercraft to provide the best logistics solution offshore. Many vehicles have been modified or purpose built for Agip KCO operations in order to facilitate movement and provide safety for personnel working offshore.
Onshore, at Bolashak process plant, all out-of-gauge, ultra large, equipment has been delivered to the site. The heaviest weighs 657 tonnes, the longest 46 meters long. All had to be delivered over thousands of miles via the Volga-Don canal system from as far away as Belgium and Indonesia.
Work is currently underway on the construction of industrial buildings, tanks andfacilities for the temporary storage of sulphur, power generation and utilities for theplant, as well as oil, gas and sulphur processing plants and pipe racks.
In everything it does environmental protection is among the company’s top priorities.
Monitoring ensures that any project-induced variation is detected and mitigation measures are defined and adopted in a timely manner. As of today, the monitoring data, in addition to providing valuable scientific information, has shown that any changes caused by Agip KCO activities are negligible.
The cornerstone of Agip KCO’s training effort is its newly constructed training center in Atyrau. With a staff of twenty-five, it is designed to prepare Kazakhstani specialists to work both onshore and offshore.
Agip KCO trainees are benefiting from the opportunity to gain practical professional experience in Italy, Congo, France, Russia and Egypt.
Exploration and appraisal drilling in the PSA area has met with a 100 percent success rate. Kashagan itself is just the start of the north Caspian story.
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