Capacity has been restored at a marine terminal in Russia that receives oil from Kazakhstan, allowing the central Asian nation to ramp up oil exports that had been reduced while the loading infrastructure underwent repairs.

Caspian Pipeline Consortium, operator of a key oil export pipeline from Kazakhstan to the marine terminal near the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, said it has fully restored the redundancy of tanker loading operations after completing repairs and necessary tests at one of the facility's two legacy loading buoys.

“The buoy is now fully ready for the transshipment of oil to tankers”, Caspian Pipeline said.

In August, the operator shut down two of its legacy loading buoys after discovering cracks in connections between the feeding hoses and buoyancy tanks, leaving a single, newer loading buoy in service.

The flow of oil and condensate from Kazakhstan had been reduced while Caspian Pipeline searched for a Russian-based contractor with a vessel that could do the repair work, which included the replacement of subsea buoyancy tanks that stabilise the movement of the oil hoses that run between the onshore terminal and the offshore buoy.

Service from one of the legacy buoys was restored early November, bringing shipping capacity back to the normal level of just under 1.3 million barrels per day.

The operator said it can maintain nameplate tanker loading speed using just two buoys, with the third serving as back-up.

Loading capacity at Caspian Pipeline’s marine terminal in Russia has been interrupted several times this year, triggering outlook downgrades for Kazakhstan and its largest oil producer, Tengizchevroil.

Some Western analysts have attributed the service interruptions to efforts by Moscow to influence Kazakh oil exports, an estimated 98% of which must traverse Russian territory to reach international markets.

Russian oil exports were hit by international sanctions after the country’s invasion of Ukraine began in February.

Tokayev visit

Top Kazakh officials have reassured Moscow that the country will remain neutral in the standoff between the West and Russia over the war.

Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow Monday, his first official international visit after his victory last week’s snap presidential election.

Tokayev left the country as his re-election for a seven-year term in the office triggered street protests in the capital of Astana and other large cities. The protesters were quickly dispersed.

According to the Kazakhstan Energy Ministry, oil production in the country rose by more than 14% throughout November, to about 2 million barrels per day, after Caspian Pipeline was able to restore full transshipment capacity for Kazakhstan's Tengizchevroil, Kashagan and Karachaganak oil developments and to producer KazMunayGaz.

Karachaganak expansion

Despite the country's outlook downgrade, partners in the Karachaganak project have approved a $700 million production capacity expansion phase, identified as KEP-1B, set to begin next year.

The project will include the drilling of six new development wells and four sour gas injection wells, a re-injection compressor, in-field flowlines and a new gas dehydration plant.

Last year, Karachaganak shipped over 78 million barrels of gas condensate — essentially very light crude oil — via Caspian Pipeline to customers in Europe and other regions of the world, according to Caspian Pipeline.

Karachaganak shareholders are UK supermajor Shell, Italy’s Eni, Chevron of the US, Russia’s Lukoil and KazMunayGaz.