September 10, 2013 / 10:42 AM / in 4 years

Russia's Transneft says Caspian pipeline expansion running late

MOSCOW, Sept 10 (Reuters) - A major expansion of the first private pipeline in the former Soviet Union is running up to one year behind schedule, a Russian shareholder said, complicating oil exports from the Caspian Sea region ahead of a jump in output.

Oil majors such as Eni, Shell, ExxonMobil and Total are preparing to launch one of the world’s biggest fields, Kashagan in Kazakhstan, and hope to obtain access to as many export routes as they can.

Delays in expanding the CPC pipeline from Kazakhstan to Russia will therefore limit export options from the landlocked region, pushing more crude towards Russian state pipelines, China and costly Caspian Sea routes.

“There will be no material pipeline expansion this year, as the project is six months to a year behind schedule,” Russian pipeline monopoly Transneft’s vice president Mikhail Barkov told Reuters, citing “technical reasons”.

Russia is a big shareholder in the CPC pipeline alongside Kazakhstan and U.S. oil major Chevron. CPC, Chevron and Kazakhstan’s state pipeline firm Kaztransoil declined to comment on the construction schedule.

Barkov said shareholders would convene in Almaty on Sept. 17-18 to discuss the project.

The consortium had planned to expand the pipeline’s annual capacity to just under 1 million barrels per day from the current 640,000 bpd as early as the middle of this year. It wants to boost capacity further to 1.3 million bpd by 2015.

CPC is primarily shipping oil from Kazakhstan’s large Tengiz and Karachaganak fields to an export terminal near the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiisk.

The conduit was launched more than 10 years ago and gave the Caspian Sea region a viable alternative to Russian state pipelines.

Production at Kashagan is due to start later this year, almost 10 years later than planned, and ultimately reach 1 million bpd - more than 1 percent of global oil output.

Delays in CPC’s expansion have already made Russia a surprise favourite to ship the first oil from Kashagan to world markets, adding to headaches for the world’s most expensive oil development.

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