Kazakhstan bypasses Russia
Victoria Panfilova, Nezavisimaya Gazeta
Kazakhstan is seeking opportunities for oil export bypassing Russia. They will be demanded by Astana, if Western sanctions against Russia touch upon the current routes of Kazakh oil flows to the world markets. According to the Minister of Oil and Gas of the republic, Uzakbai Karabalin, the Caspian direction through Azerbaijan will become a priority in this case. Experts call Karabalin’s statement political.
Kazakhstan is worried about the EU intentions to prepare the third packet of sanctions against Russia. If the energy sphere is touched upon, Astana thinks Kazakhstan will suffer. “So, our export volumes will reduce. We have to think about other options. We consider various variants,” Minister Karabalin said on Monday at the parliament.
Kazakhstan will have to settle 32 million tons of oil. This is the volume of Kazakh oil which is transferred through Russia to Novorossiysk and then to the world markets. The Kazakh Minister of Oil and Gas say that it could be replaced by the Azerbaijani direction and partially by Iran. “One of the options is a route via the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan, to Georgia, to Batumi Port on the Black Sea, considering its capacities. We remember Iran as well. If sanctions against Iran are canceled, we have a well-known export route – we used to transfer oil from Aktau to the Iranian port of Neka,” Karablin says. He also stressed that the Chinese direction is also important for Kazakhstan. “Moreover, we know that Uzbekistan and Tajikistan need oil in the south,” Karabalin stated.
Transferring Kazakh oil through Azerbaijan has been discussed by Astana and Baku since the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline (BTC). The main goal of the construction was to build a route independent from Russia for transferring oil from Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan to the world markets. At the moment the pipeline is half empty. Kazakhstan exports only 290 thousand tons of oil through it. Ilham Shaban, the head of the Center for Oil Studies, told NG that Baku waits for boosting export volumes by Astana. “It will be more convenient for Kazakhstan to export its oil through Azerbaijan. There are agreements between the countries. Astana could boost export volumes two years ago, when the Kashagan Field had to begin its operation. However, it was postponed for various reasons,” Shaban said.
According to him, today Azerbaijan has capacities to receive Kazakh oil with no restrictions. There are various routes for Kazakh oil export – through BTC, through the Georgian terminal of Kulevi or through the Batumi Port. “The capacity of BTC is 60 million tons of oil annually; at the moment only 32.7 million tons of oil are transferred through the pipeline. The capacity of Kulevi is 10 million tons. If it is not enough, Azerbaijan has the biggest oil fleet – the capacity of every tanker is 100 thousand barrels,” the expert adds.
However, Astana believes it is not sufficient for transferring their large amount of oil. Thus, a new project is being discussed – the Kazakh Caspian Transport System. It requires the construction of the Yeskene-Kuryk pipeline and the Transcaspian system (Kuryk-Baku) which would stretch to Georgia and Turkey. The capacity of the project is planned to be about 60 billion barrels annually.
As for the Chinese direction, the Minister of Oil and Gas Karabalin noted that the Atasu-Alashankou pipeline would be launched in its full extent in the nearest future. Its capacity will be 20 million tons of oil.