Kazakhstan natural gas
Kazakhstan is a country rich in fuels of all sorts. It is a major supplier of oil and uranium, and is now working toward cleaner, renewable energies like solar and wind power. It is also a major source of a fuel that some see as a cleaner link between traditional, polluting fuels and the renewable future: natural gas.
With oil and nuclear energy dominating the conversation about Kazakhstan and with President Nursultan Nazarbayev announcing plans to build a nuclear power plant in the country in his Jan. 17 state-of-the-nation address, its natural gas reserves are often overlooked. However, the country is among the worldâ€™s top 20 nations in natural gas reserves, with reserves the size of Kuwaitâ€™s and Canadaâ€™s. On Jan. 13, 2014, Kazakhstanâ€™s Oil and Gas Ministry assessed the countryâ€™s reserves at 3.8 trillion cubic meters, taking into account newly accessible fields in the Caspian Sea. (The CIA World Factbook lists Kazakhstanâ€™s proven natural gas reserves as 2.4 trillion cubic meters as of Jan. 1, 2013.)
Because of a lack of infrastructure development, the country has only had a few years of net gas exports. A new focus on developing the natural gas industry is expected to change this, as new pipelines connect gas-producing regions to the rest of the country and beyond.
Expanding Consumption and Production
Kazakhstanâ€™s gas production has lagged behind its bigger oil industries. However, gas production has more than tripled since 2000, according to BP estimates.
According to BPâ€™s Statistical Review of World Energy 2012, Kazakhstan increased its gas production by 2 percent in 2012, to 19.7 billion cubic meters, while the countryâ€™s gas consumption grew by 2.6 percent to 9.5 billion cubic meters. The countyâ€™s oil and gas ministry reported in January 2013 that it had exported 8.8 billion cubic meters of gas in 2012, a 3.7 percent increase on the year before.
Domestic consumption is growing rapidly as the country continues to modernize, and rose 3.2 percent to 10.5 billion cubic meters in 2012. From Jan.-Aug. of 2013, the ministry reported, the country produced 27.7 billion cubic meters of natural gas, consumption was 6.6 billion cubic meters and exports reached 5.03 billion cubic meters.
Most of Kazakhstanâ€™s natural gas is associated gasâ€”gas which exists along with significant oil reserves, and Kazakhstanâ€™s biggest gas producing fields are also its biggest oil producers. Historically, most of Kazakhstanâ€™s natural gas has been pumped back into oil wells to enhance oil production. However, the oil and gas ministry reported that last year, 55 percent of natural gas production was commercial production.
As of the end of October 2013, Kazakhstan had 14 processing plants associated with its natural gas fields. This number will increase as the country continues to invest in natural gas.
A Gas-Rich West
Kazakhstan is dotted with natural gas reserves, but over three quarters of its natural gas is in the west of the country, including in the oil-rich Caspian region. Two of the largest are the Kashagan field in the North Caspian Sea and the Karachaganak field in the countryâ€™s northwest, just outside the city of Oral.