Measures to control the spread of Covid-19 at Kazakhstan’s largest oilfield development, Tengiz, have led to a drop in new infections, giving fresh hopes to operator Tengizchevroil that it will be able to complete a $45 billion oil production capacity upgrade project before the end of 2023.

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According to Kazakh authorities, the number of new daily confirmed Covid-19 cases at the field dropped to 22 by end of the last week, about a third of the amount at the beginning of January when authorities ordered the operator and its building contractors to tighten restrictions.

Authorities said that just over 250 people remained in temporary hospitals on Tengiz as of 14 March, compared with more than 900 two months earlier.

Kazakh authorities hope that start of a vaccination oprgramme last week will help further reduce the number of coronavirus cases in oil-rich Atyrau and other regions in the country that have had a significant hit from the pandemic.

Together with the Tengiz field, authorities reported 45 new cases of Covid-19 in the Atyrau region on 14 March.

The fall in new Covid-19 cases has raised hopes at Chevron-led operator Tengizchevoil that international and local contractors will be able to bring more builders to resume full speed construction under the $45 billion Future Growth Project-Wellhead Pressure Management Project (FGP-WPMP).

FGP-WPMP suffered a double hit last year, with Chevron acknowledging a massive cost overrun that was followed by the evacuation of an estimated 26,000 builders from the field because of the rising number of Covid-19 cases.

The expansion project, which had been planned to come online in 2022, is now expected to reach 90% competition by end of this year and come into service in 2023, according to the Kazakh Energy Ministry.

Tengizchevroil has been reported as already spending $34 billion on FGP-WPMP by end of the last year, with another $5.2 billion to be invested this year.

In total, the expansion project is expected to boost production at Tengiz by some 260,000 barrels per day of oil to an estimated total of 850,000 bpd, with the increase calling for the drilling of new wells and installation of new sour gas processing and re-injection facilities.