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Kashagan set to shift balance of oil power

Pipeline in Atyrau: reserves in the Kazahk waters
of the Caspian could exceed Saudi Arabia's

Oilmen reckon great discoveries are never easy or geographically convenient. The Kashagan oil field offshore Atyrau in the Kazakh waters of the Caspian, arguably the most important find since World War II, certainly fits that bill.

Complicated logistics, icebergs, Siberian gales, tidal shifts, shallow waters and environmental considerations make Kashagan one of the most difficult discoveries ever attempted.

The field, where Italy's ENI is sole operator, is considered by the world's best oilmen to be the last great find. "Kazakhstan is very likely to exceed all previous expectations," says Pietro Cavanna, ENI's deputy chief operating officer for Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe and Asia. "It could very well shift the balance of power of oil from the Mideast to Central Asia in the next decade."

Nothing has been made easy for those toiling at Kashagan - whose Agip Kco consortium includes Phillips Conoco, Exxon Mobil, Royal/Dutch Shell, BP, BG, TotalFinaElf, Inpex and Statoil.

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