Kazakhstan wants to leave politics out of the equation and make a profit when dealing with the transport of hydrocarbons, the country’s foreign minister told five visiting western journalists at his lavish ministry in Astana.
“The fundamental principle from which we are proceeding on exporting our resources is the principle of economic feasibility - no politics there.
We have exported and will be exporting in any direction that is profitable for us,” Kanat Saudabayev said on 23 November. He was responding to a question from New Europe on whether the energy-rich former Soviet republic had any preference over Russian, Chinese or EU-bound projects competing for its rich oil and gas resources.
The relatively new foreign minister reminded that the Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan-China gas pipeline is due to be inaugurated on December 15 and there is already an oil pipeline from western Kazakhstan to western China. Kazakhstan also exports its oil through a whole system of pipelines running through Russia (CPC). Moreover, Kazakhstan ships oil through the Aktau-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline system.
“Given that we will be producing 170 million tons of oil out of which 130 million tons of oil will be available for exports it is in our deep interests to see the multiple export pipelines realized,” Saudabayev said. The bulk of the new volumes would come from Kashagan’s massive oil field, which plans to start commercial production around 2015. “Kazakhstan is and has been turning into a more significant player on the energy market for the European consumers and we will continue to export oil resources through those means that are profitable for us. Kazakhstan as a partner has always been distinguished by its reliability and predictability,” Saudabayev said.
The question is how this oil will be transported. There are several options, including the expansion of the CPC pipeline to Novorossiysk and also using the route to China.
Regarding the issue of bypassing the crowded Bosporus, the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline seems to have stalled. Russia seems to prefer the Samsun-Ceyhan pipeline route through Turkey due to foot-dragging by Bulgaria but also to lure Turkey into supporting the South Stream gas pipeline over Nabucco, Chris Weafer, chief strategist at Uralsib bank, told New Europe from Moscow.
“I assume that both by-pass pipes will eventually be built to cut congestion in the Bosporus. Russia will want to send more shipping with non-oil cargos via the narrow channel as it expands the economy and operations at Novorossiysk port. So it needs to divert as much oil into pipes as possible as quickly as possible,” Weafer said. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev supported Samsun–Ceyhan during his latest visit to Turkey.
Asked by New Europe if Kazakhstan was economically interested in the Nabucco pipeline, Kazakhstan’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Budget Planning Bakhyt Sultanov said that his country is interested in different ways to export its oil and gas resources. “In the case of Nabucco the main question is resources. If we’ll have resources we can sell through Russia, through Nabucco, though our partners,” he said at the sidelines of a forum to discuss Kazakhstan’s OSCE chairmanship and its priorities.
For now, it seems as if Nabucco has been out-maneuvered by Russia and China and is in real danger of having nowhere to turn to for gas supplies. “The commercial case for South Stream and Nabucco looks increasingly unsound,” Weafer said. “They are both now political projects.”