ASTANA, Kazakhstan, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Test runs for production from the Kashagan oil field, the largest in the world, should be conducted before the end of the year, a Kazakh minister said.
The Kashagan field in the Kazakh waters of the Caspian Sea is considered the largest complex of its kind in the world. Kazakh Economy Minister Erbolat Dosayev was quoted by online news service New Europe as saying work is ahead of schedule for the test runs for production.
"We hope the test runs will be made at the end of December this year and we can receive the first oil," he said. "However, the planned oil production at the field will begin in 2017."
Production at Kashagan, which holds an estimated 16 billion barrels of oil, was halted in October 2013, less than a month after it started, when a pipeline associated with the field cracked open.
In early 2014, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said it expected Kashagan to return to service at some point this year, but below its initial production target of 370,000 barrels per day "because technical challenges and high development costs may limit its expansion."
Two months after the EIA report, experts reviewing pipeline issues at the field said it may cost as much as 15 times more than initially expected to restart the field.
The government in Kazakhstan said it expects oil production to reach 630 million barrels in 2016 and 760 million barrels by 2020. Production last year was 590 million barrels.
Early this year, Kazakh Deputy Energy Minister Uzakbai Karabalin said work was ongoing to overhaul the field's pipeline infrastructure. Most of the work was expected in the latter half of 2015, with a resumption of operations expected by 2016, a year earlier than outlined Tuesday by the minister of the economy.