Kazakhstan’s political elites are coming under enormous pressure, as the government – in power since the country declared independence in 1990 – faces yet another obstacle in the development of its massive Kashagan oil field.
The oil field is believed to contain 13 billion barrels of crude oil, and it has been under development by a consortium of energy giants that includes Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, Eni, and Kazakh state oil and gas firm KazMunaiGaz. Initial production at Kashagan was expected to be 180,000 barrels per day (bpd), with peak production reaching 1.66 million bpd – output that would rival that of Angola, a member of OPEC.
But the project has long been beset by problems. Kashagan has been delayed multiple times in the last five years, with production finally beginning in September 2013, only to be stopped again when gas leaks were discovered in the pipelines. The government of Kazakhstan has imposed a $737 million fine on the consortium in reaction to these leaks.