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Kazakhstan news roundup

Kazakhstan is one of the world's top 15 countries when it comes to volume of available oil, boasting three per cent of all reserves on the planet. Almost two-thirds of the Central Asian nation is occupied by oil and gas areas, with a total of 172 oil fields, of which around half are already under development. 

Recent weeks have seen a number of important developments affecting the country's oil and gas industry. Here, we round up the most significant events of the past month.

Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan agree Caspian maritime border

A maritime border deal for the oil-rich Caspian Sea has been reached between Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, despite ongoing disputes about its status as a sea or a lake.

The Turkmen parliament has now ratified an agreement with Kazakhstan that dated back to last November, with media reports from both countries indicating that it backs the sovereign rights of each nation in their respective sections of the Caspian.

It comes as the five countries that border the Caspian - also including Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia - continue to discuss its status. If it is deemed to be a lake, national sectors would be drawn up stretching about 16 km from the shore of each country, leaving the remainder as common property in which development work could only be conducted with mutual consent.

Iran is especially keen on having the Caspian classified as a lake. If the body of water is considered a sea, Iran's section would only comprise 13 per cent of the Caspian along the southern shore - the least valuable area based on known reserves.

Tethys and PetroChina plan sale of Kazakh oil and gas to China

Tethys Kazakhstan and PetroChina have signed a memorandum of understanding to explore the potential of long-term cooperation on the delivery of natural gas and crude oil.

In particular, the partners will be exploring the proposed sale of hydrocarbons to China, as well as delivery for Kazakhstan's internal market. 

Tethys already has the option of selling gas to China, gaining the right to export upon converting the Akkulka exploration contract to a production contract.

CGG and Air Control announce partnership for airborne geophysics in Kazakhstan

Geoscience company CGG has struck a deal to provide Air Control with airborne geophysical survey services in Kazakhstan.

CGG's airborne geophysical technologies allow for subsurface exploration, and Air Control will now be able to offer these services to its oil and gas mining clients in the Central Asian country.

Flight inspection services are carried out from all Kazakh airports, using laser scanner technology to provide customers with aerial imagery and terrain elevation data.

Benoit Ribadeau Dumas, senior executive and vice president of acquisition at CGG, said its solutions are a timely and cost-effective means to reduce the risk of exploration.

"Many of our multinational clients have asked when we would provide these services in Kazakhstan," he added. 

Discussing the new deal, Mr Dumas commented: "Air Control is an ideal partner for us, as a result of its successful track record and reputation for providing specialised high-technology applications in the aviation sector in Kazakhstan."

Nazarbayev insists Kazakhstan has enough oil, even without Kashagan

Difficulties with developing the Kashagan field do not mean Kazakhstan is running short of oil, according to President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Kashagan has been described as the largest oil field discovery of the past three decades, but mining in the area is hugely challenging due to its viscosity, significant sulphur content and huge pressure. Typically, the reservoir's pressure is between 600 and 700 atmospheres, but in some places this figure rises as high as 1,000 atmospheres.

Production at the oil field was scheduled to begin in 2014, but President Nazarbayev revealed that cracks were discovered in the Japanese-made pipes, reports Tengrinews. The pipes are now being repaired at a cost of more than $2 billion.

The president said that under the current schedule, Kazakhstan is hoping to produce oil from the field in late 2015 or early 2016.

Despite the delays, Mr Nazarbayev insisted that the country has no shortage of oil. "The current oil production is enough. When delays like this happen I always say that more will remain for our future generations. What we have should suffice for us."

Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan 'best prepared for economic shocks'

Kairat Kelimbetov, governor of the Kazakh central bank, says Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan are better prepared than any other post-Soviet countries to deal with global economic shocks.

Falling oil prices and unfavourable conditions in Russia have had a severe impact on the economies of major oil exporters, but Mr Kelimbetov argued that the two countries - both of which border the Caspian Sea - were addressing these challenges by carrying out effective reforms.

Highlighting Kazakh efforts to alleviate any future downturn, he pointed to the creation of gold and fedex reserves by the national fund, which holds assets to protect against fluctuations in the price of oil. During the credit crunch, the value of this fund stood at an estimated $50 billion - a figure that had almost doubled by the start of 2015.

"We have calculated that with the oil price standing at $55 per barrel we are not tapping into the national oil fund," he added.

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