ABSTRACT

The Republic of Kazakhstan has an oil production and transport industry of growing global importance; in 2015 crude oil production averaged 1.67 million bbl/day (74 million m3/year).

The growth of the oil industry and a changing risk profile has led to an evolution of oil spill preparedness. The national framework has been amended several times due to legislative and administrative changes. The latest National Oil Spill Contingency Plan was approved in 2012, providing impetus for further development through its implementation. This Plan’s policy embraces risk-based preparedness utilizing the full response toolkit.

In terms of realizing national policy, important amendments to the Environmental Code in 2016 addressed the following:

  • – Exemption from emission control regulation; legitimate consequences of the response toolkit (such as adding dispersant and a smoke plume resulting from controlled burning) will not be considered as emissions.

  • – Requirement for specific regulation of oil spill methods i.e. dispersant product approval and use authorization and in-situ burning procedures.

Industry worked with the authorities to address and develop effective regulation based on international good practices as promoted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and international oil industry associations. The national association Kazenergy provided a vehicle for aligned support across the local industry.

Kazakhstan is a member of the regional agreement to protect the Caspian marine environment. Cooperation in case of major oil pollution is being developed, through the implementation of the Aktau Protocol, which entered into force in July 2016. Kazakhstan is also in the process of ratifying the IMO Conventions relating to oil spill preparedness and response.

This paper describes the challenging journey to develop an effective response framework, highlighting that the process:

  • – requires champions within authorities to promote legislative amendments;

  • – benefits from alignment of industry through associations as an efficient means to provide support;

  • – is inevitably slowed by governmental re-organization and it is challenging to achieve consensus across different Ministries and departments;

  • – is enhanced where targeted local oil spill research provides credibility and validation of international inputs.

Significant commitment is needed to achieve legislative change but the prize it worth it. The result is a robust framework that mandates effective response using the best options to minimize environmental impacts and promote recovery in case of potential oil pollution.

INTRODUCTION

The Republic of Kazakhstan is a large and sparsely populated Central Asian country, approximately 25% the geographic extent and with 2% of the population size of Europe (Fig. 1). The country gained independence from the former Soviet Union on 16 December 1991 and has subsequently developed an oil production and transport industry of growing global importance. Crude oil reserves are estimated as 30 billion barrels and production in 2015 averaged 1.67 million bbl/day or 74 million m3/year (BP, 2016). The oilfields that are producing and in development are in the west of the country and include areas under the Caspian Sea. There are currently three dominant projects, i.e. the Karachaganak, Kashagan, and Tengiz oilfields; their locations are indicated on Fig 1. These projects are consortia that include major international oil companies as investors and operators, alongside the national oil company, KazMunaiGaz (KMG), as described in Table 1.

Figure 1.

Map of Kazakhstan indicating selected cities (stars) and major oilfields (circles)

Figure 1.

Map of Kazakhstan indicating selected cities (stars) and major oilfields (circles)

Table 1.

Kazakhstan’s major oilfields (source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2015, amended with 2016 data)

Kazakhstan’s major oilfields (source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2015, amended with 2016 data)
Kazakhstan’s major oilfields (source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2015, amended with 2016 data)

The growth of the oil industry has led to a changing risk profile, with moves into exploration and production in the Caspian Sea, including the laying of an oil pipeline on the seabed and as part of the Kashagan development and an export route (the Caspian Pipeline Consortium) currently serving Kashagan, Tengiz and Karachaganakoil production. This export pipeline travels around the north of the Caspian, onwards to a marine terminal near Novorossiysk on Russia’s Black Sea coast.

The dynamic nature of the oil industry’s activities has also variously included tanker shipments of crude oil across the Caspian from Aktau Port to Baku (Azerbaijan) and Makhachkala (Russia) plus the use of rail cars to move oil. Kazakhstan has general maritime trade, primarily through Aktau, and the potential for oil releases from old abandoned oil wells, stemming from the Soviet era. Some of these old wells may be flooded by cyclical changes in the level of the Caspian Sea. Taken in the whole, these industrial and trade developments have resulted in changing risks and the related evolution of oil spill preparedness by the authorities and industry.

LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK AND NATIONAL PLANNING DEVELOPMENT

Every country sets up regulation that should be followed by industry under the oversight of the relevant authorities. Such regulations can variously limit, restrict, and allow, guide and permit certain activities. Within the Republic of Kazakhstan, there are key legal instruments that have bearing on the national framework for oil spill preparedness and response, as described in Table 2. There is a descending hierarchy of these instruments’ legal status i.e. Code → Law → Order.

Table 2.

Key legal instruments relating to oil spill preparedness and response

Key legal instruments relating to oil spill preparedness and response
Key legal instruments relating to oil spill preparedness and response
Table 2.

Key legal instruments relating to oil spill preparedness and response

Key legal instruments relating to oil spill preparedness and response
Key legal instruments relating to oil spill preparedness and response

The national framework for oil spill preparedness has been amended several times, as legislation has developed and administrative changes have occurred. A National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (henceforth ‘the Plan’) was first approved in 2000. This was completely revised in 2012 (and subsequently amended in 2015), providing impetus for further development of preparedness through its implementation. The current Plan’s policy embraces risk-based preparedness utilizing, within the Net Environmental Benefit Analysis (NEBA) principle (IPIECA-IOGP, 2015), the full oil spill response toolkit. Ensuring the Plan is a workable document required a major effort by the relevant authorities to amend and develop the legislative framework. This was achieved via several activities as summarized in Table 3.

Table 3.

Oil spill preparedness and response opportunities and undertaken activities

Oil spill preparedness and response opportunities and undertaken activities
Oil spill preparedness and response opportunities and undertaken activities
Table 3.

Oil spill preparedness and response opportunities and undertaken activities

Oil spill preparedness and response opportunities and undertaken activities
Oil spill preparedness and response opportunities and undertaken activities

Government / administration reorganization

Changes in government and a country’s administration can result in positive and negative outcomes. Re-organization of the government’s structure and related movement of personnel have been a challenge throughout the national plan review, revision and implementation process. Identifying where cross-cutting governmental responsibilities lie is a common issue in relation to national oil spill preparedness. Kazakhstan has proved no different to many other countries in this regard. Reorganization exacerbates the clarification of such issues and can seriously retard progress.

There was a fundamental reorganization of the government announced in August 2014, including a reduction in the number of Ministries from 17 to 15. Such an event brings obvious uncertainties and requirements for clarifications at Ministerial, Departmental and personnel levels. It to the credit of dedicated individuals within the various arms of government that this reorganization ultimately was used as an opportunity to consolidate responsibilities and clarify issues. Inevitably this took months to achieve but this is to be expected. The establishment of an oil spill preparedness framework within government is not a trivial task and requires significant coordination. Recognition at senior Ministerial levels that personnel resources need to be committed to national planning is important to achieving success.

On the positive side, the changes in government structure demanded amendment of legislation, e.g. to clarify roles within the new governmental organization. This provided an opportunity to enhance legislation and embed good practice elements. During the reforms, some authorities became less powerful and new managers with different perspectives took on responsibilities. This facilitated a fresh dialogue, inclining efforts towards enhancement of the national oil spill preparedness framework. As an example, pre-2014 the environment authority was a separate Ministry of Environment Protection and Water Resources. After the reorganisation this became a part of the Ministry of Energy at the level of Committee status. During the period that the environment function was a separate Ministry, approaching to them develop dispersant policy and regulation did not engender their active engagement. However, once embedded as a Committee within the Ministry of Energy (with this Ministry having the specific remit to develop the National Plan) it was possible to achieve a focus on this issue.

The consolidation of various civil defence legislations into a single Civil Protection Law in 2014 also clarified of the overall national system for emergency response, into which the national oil spill contingency plan needs to integrate.

CO-OPERATION AND IMPLEMENTATION

Making progress in oil spill preparedness and response is not an individual work for government; it requires joint efforts and inputs from industry, international organisations, nongovernmental organisations, scientific/academic institutions and motivated individuals within the authorities. Co-operation amongst the various involved parties is a fundamental tenet underpinning effective preparedness (Coolbaugh et al., 2014). Co-operation may be manifest through a variety of formal and informal mechanisms. Fig. 2 provides a schematic overview of the key organizations involved in developing preparedness in Kazakhstan and their main lines of communication.

Figure 2.

Scheme indicating the key stakeholders

Figure 2.

Scheme indicating the key stakeholders

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) developed the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation 1990 – the ‘OPRC Convention’ (Edwards and Pascoe, 1991). This is the key international instrument for oil spill preparedness, encouraging co-operation between countries and with the oil, shipping and port industries. Currently Kazakhstan has not ratified the OPRC Convention but this is under active consideration, along with other IMO conventions relating to oil spill preparedness and compensation. In practice, Kazakhstan already meets the large majority of the OPRC Convention’s requirements.

Caspian Sea regional co-operation

With the support of the international community, the ‘Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea’ (known as the ‘Tehran Convention’) was developed and signed by all five States in 2003, subsequently entering into force on 12 August 2006 (celebrated in the region as Caspian Day). The importance of this Convention for the region, being the first legally binding agreement between the five countries, cannot be overestimated and it marked a major milestone for Caspian Sea regional cooperation.

The Tehran Convention provides the framework for specific actions under a series of Protocols. The first Protocol developed under the Convention was the ‘Protocol Concerning Regional Preparedness, Response and Cooperation in Combating Oil Pollution Incidents’ (known as the ‘Aktau Protocol’). This Protocol was also developed with significant support from the international community, most notably from the IMO. It is closely aligned with the requirements of the OPRC Convention. The finalized text was signed on Caspian Day in August 2011 and entered into force on 25 July 2016. During 2017, the Caspian littoral States are anticipating finalization of the ‘Caspian Sea Plan concerning Regional Co-operation in Combating Oil Pollution in Cases of Emergency’, representing the primary tool for implementation of the Aktau Protocol.

Government and industry co-operation

Co-operation and coordination between the authorities and the private sector is embedded in the OPRC Convention and Aktau Protocol and is promoted through a joint effort between IMO and the IPIECA (the international oil and gas association for environmental and social issues). This is manifest through the Global Initiative (GI), launched in 1996. Under the GI umbrella, IPIECA administers a regional initiative for the Black Sea and Caspian Sea since 2003, known as the Oil Spill Preparedness Regional Initiative – OSPRI (Taylor et al., 2014). OSPRI is a group of oil majors whose goal is to work jointly with governments to promote effective oil spill preparedness; this is primarily achieved through sharing international good practice.

OSPRI has worked in coordination with the local energy association (Kazenergy) to ensure alignment on oil spill preparedness across all oil companies present in Kazakhstan, not just OSPRI members. KMG has also played a pivotal role in ensuring appropriate engagement between industry and the government. KMG affiliates have participated a range of oil spill related activities and research.

The need for collaboration in the field of oil spill response was identified in the Kazakhstan Upstream Oil & Gas Technology and R&D Roadmap, initially developed by Shell and endorsed by the wider industry and the government (Shell, 2013). The implementation of this aspect of the Roadmap is being coordinated by industry in cooperation with the Ministry of Energy. The value of addressing oil spill issues through industry’s national and international Associations has been clear. It is more efficient and cost-effective, avoiding either duplication of effort or conflicts of interest that might occur if oil companies were to act individually. Through Associations, commercial competitors can come together and share good practice in the field of health, safety and environment, including oil spill preparedness, to mutual benefit. The authorities and regulators also benefit from having consistent points of industry contact, avoiding time-consuming liaison and repetition with individual companies.

OSPRI has a manager and coordinator but crucially can be represented by personnel from its member companies and their related operators. The operator of the Kashagan project, North Caspian Operating Company N.V. (NCOC) has five OSPRI member companies as coventurers. NCOC is a vital partner to OSPRI; as OSPRI is not registered in Kazakhstan and is not a member of Kazenergy or other national associations, NCOC provides an official route to provide relevant comments, promoting industry Tier 2 cooperation and addressing customs and tax barriers for imported oil spill response equipment.

NCOC sponsored a dispersant effectiveness research and testing project undertaken by the Kazakhstan Institute of Oil and Gas (Kulekeyev, 2014). This project modified the UK’s WSL LR448 rotating flask method, using a local test oil and with consideration of the lower and variable salinity of the Caspian Sea. The research results were provided to relevant authorities, assisting their development of a national testing methodology and list of approved dispersants for the Kazakhstan sector of Caspian Sea. NCOC has also sponsored preliminary studies on the applicability and effectiveness of in-situ burning as response method for Kazakhstan.

International support

The relationship of OSPRI with other international organizations has also contributed to the ethos of working together. The OSPRI network includes Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL), the largest international oil industry-funded cooperative, which exists to respond to oil spills wherever in the world. OSRL have provided technical support to several activities undertaken by OSPRI, and hosted visits to their Southampton, UK facility by key personnel from Kazakhstan.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and foreign embassies based in the Republic of Kazakhstan also looked for synergy with their activities and priorities in the energy and environment sectors. OSPRI jointly with OSCE and IMO provided round tables and workshops on IMO Conventions; OSCE also supported research for possible ratification of IMO conventions by Kazakhstan, the development of sub-national plans and provided technical support to manage visits to OSRL in the UK by key personnel from Kazakhstan. The USA embassy in Kazakhstan, through its speakers’ program, provided technical support to facilitate workshops on command and control.

Through continuing international cooperation with IMO and the United Nations Environment Programme - UNEP (the latter currently acting as interim Secretariat for Tehran Convention), OSPRI envisages aligned efforts on supporting the ratification of the IMO conventions and promoting implementation of the Aktau Protocol.

Knowledge-sharing and awareness raising

A vital element in the implementation process is knowledge-sharing based on proven, science-based approaches. The IPIECA-IOGP Oil Spill Response Joint Industry Project (JIP) developed and published oil spill response Good Practice Guidance (GPG) between 2012–16 (Lay, 2016), updating, expanding and replacing the IPIECA Oil Spill Report Series. These publications are freely available and represent a consensus viewpoint from industry across all key oil spill preparedness issues. They are being translated into various languages during 2016, including Russian. OSPRI is promoting these documents as a valuable resource, included assisting the authorities when developing regulations. For example, elements of Order No 247 (Rules on Oil Spill Response Methods) are derived directly from the NEBA GPG.

Workshops also fulfil an important role in gathering all parties to raise discussion, promote dialogue and jointly deliver uniform information to both industry and authorities. Several workshops were organised on the dispersant issue to raise awareness and deliver local research results, as well to propose the steps for the drafting of suitable regulations. Regarding command and control issues - based on the result of developed template for sub-national plans (at the Oblast/Akimat level of government) - a workshop was convened for the interested parties and get their public approval and recommendation for its use (OSCE, 2015). In November 2016, as a follow up to publication of Order No 247 (Rules for Oil Spill Response Methods)earlier in the year, workshops were held in Astana, Atyrau and Aktau to inform interested parties about the practicalities of developing NEBA-based oil spill response strategy .

Study visits can broaden key personnel’s appreciation of the extent of activities needed for preparedness, and to learn what practical response can be undertaken. As an example, a study visit was organized to OSRL’s UK base jointly with partners. This helped reinforce the extent, role and function of potential Tier 3 which can support Kazakhstan and explain how authorities need to consider and facilitate smooth access and integration of international pollution combating resources through their national planning. (OSCE, 2011). During this visit, authority personnel also had opportunity to visit IMO, learn about their conventions, with information provided by IMO and IOPC Funds representatives. Presentations were also arranged from a ITOPF representative and Admiral Thad Allen, who was the US Coast Guard’s Incident Commander at the Macondo incident in the Gulf of Mexico during 2010.

CONCLUSIONS

Kazakhstan’s journey to effective response has needed to adapt and evolve over several years, driven by a changing risk profile. It has embraced challenges due to government reorganization and been underpinned by co-operation involving a wide variety of authorities, industry and international organizations.

The important lessons learned are that the process:

  • – requires champions within authorities to promote legislative amendments;

  • – benefits from alignment of industry through associations as an efficient means to provide support;

  • – is inevitably slowed by governmental re-organization and it is challenging to achieve consensus across different Ministries and departments;

  • – is enhanced where targeted local oil spill research provides credibility and validation of international inputs.

Significant commitment is needed from key government participants to achieve legislative change but the prize it worth it. The result is a robust framework that mandates effective response using the best options to minimize environmental impacts and promote recovery in case of potential oil pollution.

In future, it is anticipated that Kazakhstan will sustainably implement its National Plan, primarily through an on-going exercise programme. The finalization and implementation of the Caspian Sea regional plan of co-operation will also provide opportunities to exercise and test the national system.

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