Kazakhstan-China oil line section filling

Eric Watkins
Senior Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, Dec 15 -- Line-fill has begun on the 614-mile, 32-in. crude oil pipeline between Atasu in northwestern Kazakhstan and Alashankou in China's northwestern Xinjiang region.

The pipeline, part of a much larger project linking Kazakhstan and China, will initially transport as much as 210,000 b/d of crude from Aktobe in northwestern Kazakhstan, where China operates an oil field, and Russian oil from Siberia.

Kazakh Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Vladimir Shkolnik earlier said transport operations would start in mid-2006 after 600,000 tonnes of crude oil are pumped into the pipeline.

The Atasu-Alashankou pipeline is the second part of the three-part Kazakhstan-China oil transport project. When all three stages are complete, the Kazakhstan-China pipeline will span nearly 1,930 miles from Atyrau to Alashankou in China.

The first section, completed in 2003, crosses western Kazakhstan from the oil fields of the Aktobe region to the oil hub of Atyrau. The third stage of the pipeline will entail completion of the Kenkiyak-Kumkol pipeline in central Kazakhstan.

Once the Kenkiyak-Kumkol-Atasu pipeline is in operation, officials say, the plan is to add crude produced in Kazakhstan's far western regions, including the offshore Kashagan field.

Nurbol Sultan, a deputy director general at state-owned transport company KazTransOil, said that after completion of the Kenkiyak-Kumkol section it would be technically feasible to boost the pipeline's capacity to 1 million b/d.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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