Watching the World: Kazakh port due expansion

March 7, 2005
A feasibility study on expansion of Kazakhstan's port of Aktau on the Caspian Sea was presented in the nation's capital last week as part of a larger plan to step up oil export capabilities.

A feasibility study on expansion of Kazakhstan’s port of Aktau on the Caspian Sea was presented in the nation’s capital last week as part of a larger plan to step up oil export capabilities.

Last December, Kazakh Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Vladimir Shkolnik said that Kazakh oil production is expected to exceed 150 million tonnes/year by 2015 and therefore that oil transportation to international markets is “very important.”

New terminals

Under the proposed plan for Aktau, four new oil terminals would be built in the northern section of the existing port to help transport Kazakh oil to world markets by large tankers bound for Makhachkala in Russia, Baku in Azerbaijan, and Neka in Iran.

The project calls for increasing the port’s shipping capacity to 20 million tonnes/year of oil. Exports from Aktau last year totaled an estimated 8 million tonnes, half by Kazmortransflot, the shipping subsidiary of KazMunayGaz, the national oil and gas company.

The 2004 figure represented a 58% increase over 2003, and projections for 2005 see even more throughput-much of it going to Iran in a swap for Iranian crude exported for Kazakhstan’s account through the Persian Gulf.

Last July, Kazmortransflot announced half-year figures showing a 70% increase in exports over the comparable 6-month period in 2003. It said Kazmortransflot vessels carried 1.156 million tonnes of oil to Makhachkala, a rise of 40%, and a further 725,000 tonnes to Neka, a 66% increase over the first 6 months of 2003.

On Feb. 28 the US ambassador to Kazakhstan, John Ordway, drew attention to American efforts to improve the export potential of the Central Asian nation.

While praising Kazakhstan for taking a balanced approach toward development of its oil resources, Ordway said, “Another important aspect for such a landlocked country as Kazakhstan, in the development of which we have played an active role-and we are proud of this-is to find ways of accessing international markets.”

He said the US had backed the construction of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium pipeline, which links Tengiz field on the northern Caspian coast with the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk.

“We are also providing assistance in transporting Kazakh oil through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline,” he said. “We believe that this balanced approach will ensure for Kazakh oil reliable transport routes, which are indeed necessary for your country to better use oil reserves.”

US commitment

That assistance includes a long-standing US commitment to the development of Aktau.

In a joint statement released on Dec. 5, 2000, the US and Kazakhstan agreed to work together to improve transport infrastructure in western Kazakhstan and facilitate the export of Kazakh crude oil to “other” ports.

With their eye primarily on exports for the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline, US officials will be heartened to note that Kazmortransflot vessels also began transporting Kazakh oil to Baku in 2004.