Kashagan Gas Leak Probe Held Up by Caspian Sea Ice, Total Says

A probe into the cause of a leak at Kazakhstan’s largest oilfield depends on inspection of offshore installations that has to wait until ice melts on the Caspian Sea, one of the partners in the project said.

“It’s melting as we speak,” Arnaud Breuillac, Total SA head of exploration and production, said today at an oil conference in Paris. “Until we have the result of this analysis, we can’t say what is the extent of the problem or how long it’ll take to fix it.”

Output may resume at the end of the year after 180 kilometers (112 miles) of pipelines are inspected, the field’s biggest stakeholder KazMunaiGaz National Co. has said. A full inspection of both oil and gas pipelines, each about 90 kilometers long, was done using a probe known as an intelligent pig.

Kashagan, where production began in September after being delayed several times from the original plan in 2005, was producing about 60,000 barrels a day before a leak stopped the field on Oct. 9. The project included drilling from a man-made island to unlock crude 4.2 kilometers under the seabed in a pressurized reservoir with a high concentration of poisonous sour gas.

“We have to confirm data from intelligent pigging inside the pipeline with calibrations from outside” to understand the data, Breuillac said today. “Hopefully we should know soon the potential work that has to be done to repair the problem.”

Should production start up this year “it would not be much,” he said.

Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Total and Eni SpA each hold 16.81 percent in the project. Japan’s Inpex Corp. owns 7.56 percent. State-owned KazMunaiGaz National Co. retains 16.88 percent. China National Petroleum Corp. bought an 8.33 stake percent in September.

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