KazMunayGaz has revealed another attempt to find a strategic partner to share exploration risks at a large oil and gas block in Kazakhstan’s Mangistau region — with a preference for investors from the Forbes Magazine Global 2000 list of top companies.

The Kazakh state-controlled oil and gas holding company said it will accept applications until mid-November from potential partners to form a joint venture to explore and possibly develop the Bolashak acreage.

According to Kazakh authorities, the Bolashak block occupies about 5800 square kilometres, with some the acreage in the shallow waters of the northern Caspian Sea.

The block already hosts two fields, Komsomolskoye and East Karaturun, that are operated by privately owned domestic players and that will be excluded from the offer.

Almaty-based news outlet LS said in May that Bolashak was one of the several perspective blocks that KazMunayGaz offered to China’s Sinopec to be included in a proposed exploration joint venture.

KazMunayGaz had not replied by publication time to an inquiry from Upstream on whether Bolashak was released from the commitment to Sinopec.

At the beginning of this year, KazMunayGaz said it had a plan to explore the acreage on its own.

It said the chosen international partner should provide sufficient financing to the venture to spud at least two wildcats, one to a depth of 3500 metres and the other to 4500 metres, with 432 square kilometres of 3D seismic data also to be collected.

KazMunayGaz said it would prefer possible investors from the Forbes Magazine Global 2000 list of top companies.

In the event that the potential partner does not come from this list, it should have total capital of at least $100 million and have at least five years’ experience in the oil and gas industry, whether internationally or in Kazakhstan.

Moreover, such a partner will have to deposit at least $1 million for KazMunayGaz to consider its partnership application, and provide a bank guarantee, covering expected investments in the exploration work.

Kazakhstan has seen international majors exit capital-intensive and long-exploration projects in recent years, as Western companies dedicated more of their investments to energy transition and renewables opportunities.

That has left KazMunayGaz to seek closer partnership with Russian oil producers, even though Russian corporations are under international sanctions because of the invasion of Ukraine.

KazMunayGaz executive board chairman Magzum Mirzagaliyev travelled to the Russian city of Astrakhan to meet Lukoil executives last weekend, and later flew to a stationary production platform at the Grayfera field in the Russian sector of the Caspian Sea that Lukoil operates.

KazMunayGaz said the two companies are moving forward in their plan to finalise a joint venture to explore and develop the Kalamkas-more, Khazar and Auezov blocks in the Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea.

Additionally, detailed design engineering subsidiaries of the two companies expect to join forces in serving the new venture, and possibly other KazMunayGaz developments.

According to Forbes, Lukoil is not in the 2023 Global 2000 list of corporations. However, the Russian company has been operating in Kazakhstan since the mid-1990s.