Book Explores Kazakhstan’s Oil and Gas Industry History

Oil and politics go hand in hand. Most significant events in world politics from the second half of 20th to the beginning of the 21st centuries – coups, military conflicts and financial crises – have been in some way connected to oil.

Oil also plays a central role in Kazakhstan, with its location in the Caspian region and its important impact on ensuring energy security at the regional and global level.

Kazakhstan’s foreign policy from its first years of independence have proven successful and have allowed Kazakhstan to maintain the status quo in the region, where the interests of many world political forces overlap and sometimes clash, and also to conduct an effective and multidirectional economic policy, particularly in our energy export and investment policy. All these aspects are considered in the book “Kazakhstan Oil: A Century-Long History.”

I began to study the chronicles of the oil industry many years ago. I have always been interested in the history of oil, especially in a global context. The outcome of this research was the book “Oil: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” published in 2009, on the eve of the 110th anniversary of the discovery of oil in Kazakhstan. This is a very important part of our history, and I believe the book to be interesting to a wide range of readers, from students of technical colleges to oil experts, workers and executives of the oil and gas industry, journalists, politicians, analysts and historians. In addition, the book was also released in an English edition, which significantly expands its audience, and soon it will be available in electronic format.

To write the book I engaged firsthand with the technology of exploration and production of hydrocarbons; I know the history of the deposits’ development from the inside. Each is unique in its geological and geophysical parameters, not only for our country but also globally.

Take, for example, the Tengiz field. It can be called the quintessence of the heroic work of several generations of Kazakh oil workers, who knew the troubles of war, famine and persecution, who overcame the difficulties of the transition period in the early 1990s and who achieved the highest level of professionalism in the oil industry, now recognised worldwide. They are true patriots of their professions, these engineers, geologists, geophysicists, drillers, oil producers and ordinary workers in the oil fields. I was fortunate to be able to work side by side with many of them. And, of course, my experience in industry, science and management as well as my memories of working days in the fields helped me very much in writing the book.

Today, the oil and gas industry of our country is, of course, on the rise. During its years of independence, Kazakhstan has managed to increase production of oil and gas enormously. Last year the country produced 80 million tons of crude oil and 40 billion cubic metres of natural gas. The state plans in the next 5-10 years to increase oil production up to 100 million tons, gas to 60 billion cubic metres a year. I think this is a realistic forecast, provided that the current production growth is maintained.

Kazakhstan has made considerable progress in exporting hydrocarbons. Of course, there are still unresolved issues. Some of the most important are increasing the internal volumes of oil and gas, upgrading our refineries and developing the petrochemical industry.

The oil and gas sector of Kazakhstan has enormous potential. Despite all the financial and political crises in the world, demand for hydrocarbons continues to grow. Oil and gas for many years will remain the main source of energy on Earth, and significant amounts of hydrocarbon reserves and production growth will provide our country with leadership positions among the largest oil producers in the world.

In addition, Kazakhstan is gradually moving toward economic diversification and the use of alternative energy sources. It should be noted that Kazakhstan has great potential for the development of wind, hydro- and solar energy. But in speaking about the future of the oil and gas and energy sector of Kazakhstan, we cannot forget the past and what we had to go through in order to achieve the economic results recognized around the world.

It took 80 years to make our way from the first oil fountain in Karashungul in 1899 to the discovery of Tengiz, one of the world’s largest oil fields, and another 20 years to reach offshore and open the super-giant Kashagan deposit. This century-long road was an eventful period in the history of the domestic oil and gas industry, full of bright pages, victories and discoveries.

Ravil Chardabayev is the author of the book, “Kazakhstan Oil: A Century-Long History.”