Kashagan group taps ExxonMobil exec

The group behind the troubled Kashagan oil development has tapped an ExxonMobil executive to run the $50 billion project offshore Kazakhstan as part of a larger management overhaul.

The consortium behind Kashagan, known as the North Caspian Sea Production Sharing Agreement (NCSPSA), said in a statement on Monday that ExxonMobil's Stephane de Mahieu had become managing director as of 1 May this year.

De Mahieu was identified as an ExxonMobil "secondee", though no further information about his most recent post was provided. He had previously worked as the managing director for ExxonMobil subsidiary Esso Angola.

"The transition of the Kashagan project from development to production operations provides an opportunity to further integrate and consolidate operator and agent activities to position the venture for future... resource development," the consortium said.

"To capitalise on this opportunity, the NCSPSA shareholders have agreed to work towards a progressive transition from the current operating model to a single consolidated joint-venture company."

The operating company is expected be known as the North Caspian Operating Company and no changes are expected to the ownership breakdown.

The group also denied reports that ExxonMobil would take over as operator of Kashagan.

Kashagan, one of the world's largest discoveries in a decade, suffered numerous delays and cost overruns leading up to first oil last September. The next month, a gas-pipeline leak halted production, with oil output possibly delayed until 2016.

Kashagan shareholders include Eni, ExxonMobil, Shell, Total and Kazakh state oil company Kazmunaigas, each on 16.8%. Japan's Inpex and China National Petroleum Corporation also hold stakes.

Reserves at Kashagan are estimated at 35 billion barrels of oil, some 11 billion of which are considered recoverable.

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