Caspian Pipeline Consortium has reiterated its commitment to completing a capacity expansion programme after finishing repairs at a second damaged loading buoy at its export terminal near the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk.

The company’s network carries Kazakh and Russian crude and is the major export route for Kazakhstan’s foreign-led Tengiz, Kashagan and Karachaganak oil producing projects.

Two of the three loading buoys at the terminal were damaged during a severe storm in April, drastically reducing the facility’s throughput.

Operations at the first of two damaged buoys were restored by the end of April, but repairs to the second took longer to complete, ending only earlier in May.

Despite the time taken to repair the damaged buoys, Caspian Pipeline said debottlenecking upgrades to pumping stations and the pipeline network that began in 2019 are still expected to be completed before the end of 2023.

The debottlenecking is due to increase the 1500-kilometre pipeline’s throughput capacity for Kazakhstan producers to 545 million barrels per annum from the current 503 million barrels, at an estimated cost of $600 million.

The upgrade will also boost the capacity for Russian volume suppliers — of which Rosneft is the largest — to 79 million barrels per annum.

Caspian Pipeline said it transported about 443 million barrels of crude from Kazakhstan and Russia to marine tankers at its terminal near the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, but had to drastically reduce throughput following a storm at the end of March.

Repairing the buoys became a major issue for the operator, as international suppliers refused to deliver spare parts to Russia because of Western sanctions following Russia’s invasion to Ukraine in February.

A Caspian Pipeline spokesperson said that, since the end of March, the pipeline operator has been made progress in gaining the necessary spare parts supplied by foreign companies and now has to build up a stock of spare parts for any future repairs.

According to the operator, it has been able to maintain its tanker loading schedule this month with just two buoys in service, with Kazakh authorities now hoping that the restrictions experienced in April will not have any significant impact on the country’s total annual oil output.

Caspian Pipeline added that Russian authorities granted an exemption from recently introduced restrictions on Russian-registered companies sending foreign currencies to parties in so-called “unfriendly” countries that introduced sanctions against it following the Ukraine invasion.

According to Caspian Pipeline, the exemption will allow the operator to pay $586 million of dividends for 2021 to a group of its Western shareholders, led by US majors Chevron and ExxonMobil.

Caspian Pipeline added that is still awaiting formal notification from Russian environmental watchdog Rosprirodnadzor to work on non-compliances reported by inspectors during a recent inspection of its facilities, following the storm damage to the loading buoys.

Caspian Pipeline is excluded from Western sanctions against Russia because it remains the major export route for Kazakhstan crude.

The Russian-led consortium includes Chevron, ExxonMobil, Lukoil, Rosneft, BG, Eni and Oryx among its stakeholders.