Kazakhstan’s oil production returned to normal this week after the Caspian Pipeline Consortium completed repairs to a Black Sea terminal’s damaged offshore loading buoy.

Nur-Sultan-based oil and gas industry web channel Energy Monitor reported on Tuesday that Kazakhstan’s oil output returned to a normalised rate equivalent to 1.9 million barrels per day after falling 14% earlier this month.

The drop in production that affected international operators, as well as the country’s largest oil producer Tengizchevroil, was related to the closure of two out of three marine loading buoys by Caspian Pipeline, the operator of a major export pipeline from Kazakhstan to Russia’s Black Sea coast.

Caspian Pipeline said that a calm period in the Black Sea this past weekend had allowed divers to complete repairs on the one of the two buoys that had been damaged during a storm in March.

The two buoys are understood to be sufficient for the operator to resume its normal loading rate of around 1.4 million bpd, but without the redundancy provided by the third buoy.

Caspian Pipeline has repeatedly complained about the refusal of international suppliers to deliver spare hoses and replacement parts to support any future emergency repair work at loading buoys should their equipment be damaged again.

Although unconfirmed, any such refusals to assist repairs in Russian territory are assumed to part of the reaction by Western nations and companies to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Suppliers have expressed concerns about the possibility of falling foul of the sanctions against Russia by the US, the European Union and others as the Kremlin continues its invasion of Ukraine.

New offer disclosed

Despite continuing uncertainty about about Caspian Pipeline’s capacity to keep oil exports moving because of the parts supply issue, Kazakh authorities announced a new competitive process to offer new oil and gas blocks, with the event to be staged online on 22 July.

According to the country’s Energy Ministry, it is seeking bids for 40 tracts located in established oil-producing regions including Mangistau, West Kazakhstan, Atyrau, Aktyubinsk and Karaganda.

At least three blocks in the Mangistau region include fields — Tolkyn, Borankol and Karaoba — identified in previous exploration.

These areas are understood to contain mainly gas, with some condensate and oil.

Potential buyers of blocks on offer will have to seek export opportunities for their output as domestic oil consumption is limited amid the country’s push for solar and wind generation.

Russian gas supply proposal

Kazakhstan has also been looking to replace oil with cleaner and affordable gas by reportedly consulting Russian gas company Gazprom about the possibility of building two pipelines to deliver up to 2.7 billion cubic metres of gas to northern and eastern parts of the country.

Energy Minister Bolat Akchulakov said earlier this week that Gazprom has committed to completing feasibility studies on the suggested pipelines and presenting them to the ministry before the end of the second quarter.

With Gazprom’s gas pipeline exports to Europe now in a second year of decline amid the continued political standoff between the Russia and the West, the Russian giant is thought to have spare production capacity and is seeking alternative export routes.