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Kazakh Gov't wants stronger environmental protection while drilling at Caspian

3 February 2011 14:12
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ASTANA. February 3. KAZINFORM. Since independence in 1991, Kazakhstan's government has sought to use the country's vast and largely unexplored hydrocarbon resources for the development of the country's industrial, economic and social infrastructure.

Kazakhstan's oil industry has seen a rapid growth since then and the country has established itself as a major oil producer. Currently, Kazakhstan is ranked third among non-OPEC countries, and sixth overall, in terms of energy supplies to the European Union, providing more than three percent of total imports of oil and gas to the EU states.

With the launch of several major projects on the Caspian shelf, accompanied by the state's target to double annual oil production by 2020 and thus, with 160 million tonnes of oil produced annually, enter top five oil producers globally, Kazakhstan undertakes all possible measures to protect the environment during the exploitation of energy resources.

Extraction of resources in Kazakhstan is done in accordance with the Law "On Environmental Protection" and approved standards and safety regulations. In addition, in order to prevent disasters such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, an inter-departmental commission on safety operations in the oil producing companies has been operating since July 2010. The commission includes representatives of Kazakhstan's ministries of oil and gas, environmental protection, emergency situations, industry and trade, local governments, as well as representatives of producing companies.

Furthermore, on 31 December 2010, Prime Minister Karim Massimov approved standards and requirements on materials and substances necessary for carrying out cleaning operations in the Caspian Sea in cases of oil spills. The requirements have been developed in accordance with the Law "On Subsoil and Subsoil Use" of 24 June 2010 aimed at the creation of conditions for quick response and elimination of oil spills by subsurface users in the waters of the sea.

The standards are divided into three levels depending on gradation of emergencies of oil spills. The first level is minor spills, those which do not exceed 10 tonnes and which can be liquidated using materials and substances present at a maritime construction during works and staff facilities. For this reason, each offshore structure and every vessel have to include sufficient amounts of absorbent materials necessary for collection of spills of up to 10 tonnes.

The second, moderate, level includes spills from 10 to 250 tonnes, the elimination of which requires resources available on maritime structures, worksites, as well as additional materials, substances and staff of the local coastal services. The second-level emergency conditions cover leaks from storage tanks or fuel distribution systems, transporting tankers, barges with a temporary or partial loss of control which can occur during drilling and testing of wells at offshore structures.

According to the press service of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry, the last, third, level includes major spills exceeding 250 tonnes, such as the cases of long-term loss of control of a well, from a floating fuel tank or a barge, a storage tank or a distribution system. These oil spills require immediate containment and mobilisation of materials and substances from both domestic and international resources.

Furthermore, the standards provide for the presence of a sufficient, depending on a size of marine facilities, number of bonds for localisation of the spilled oil, its containment and recovery of water surface. The presence of additional materials and substances for collection of oil from water surface is required to be in place on vessels, while the nominal gathering capacity has to account to 20 tonnes per hour. In accordance with the requirements, a subsoil user is also required to hold a wide range of materials and substances sufficient for the simultaneous elimination of two oil spills of 30 tonnes each, which have to be located within the thirty-minute reach of the facility.

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Zhanna Nurmaganbetova

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