Aral Gas

Post image for Aral Gas

by michaelhancock on 6/9/2010 · 12 comments

Yay!  Korea found gas in the Aral Sea!  Er, I mean Petronas and friends found gas!

Confused?  Remember when Uzbekistan sold oil/gas exploration rights in the dried up crust of the Aral Sea to an international consortium?  No?

Ergash Shaismatov, the Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan, announced on August 30, 2006, that the Uzbek government and an international consortium consisting of state-run Uzbekneftegaz, LUKoil Overseas, Petronas, Korea National Oil Corporation, andChina National Petroleum Corporation signed a production sharing agreement to explore and develop oil and gas fields in the Aral Sea, saying, “The Aral Sea is largely unknown, but it holds a lot of promise in terms of finding oil and gas. There is risk, of course, but we believe in the success of this unique project.” The consortium was created in September 2005.

That’s from Wikipedia quoting an ITAR-TASS story that seems to have fallen off the nets.  [dead link?]  [this one works, but different source story]

If you want my opinion, this is probably not unqualified good news for anyone in Karakalpakistan.  And probably for very few in Uzbekistan, even though Uzbekneftegaz is taking in 50% of the find per agreement.  I’m no export on oil/gas exports, but it seems this wasn’t the easiest area to work in.  Surprise surprise – you mean the rotting corpse of the world’s fourth largest lake, one of the world’s greatest ecological crimes [though BP is going for number one in the Gulf of Mexico] isn’t a pleasant place to make your living?

“We drilled deeper than three kilometers to pinpoint the location of gas over the past few months around the Aral Sea. We extracted a total of 500,000 cubic meters of natural gases as of June 1,” an MKE official said.

From what I can get from the interwebs, that’s not as deep as it sounds.  Chevron has a rig in the Gulf of Mexico pumping oil from 5 miles below the seabed.  When I read that, my first thought was, “Must be a bitch to separate out the magma and Mole Men.”

Uzbekistan is not alone in looking at the potential of the Aral Sea; in January 2006 Kazakhstan’s KazMunaiGaz and Ukraine’s Naftogaz Ukrayiny signed a memorandum of mutual understanding to analyze the potential of the Kulandy structure in Kazakhstan’s Aral Sea sector toward a possibility of joint exploration work.

That’s from a 2007 article full of misconceptions and bizarre conclusions about the Aral Sea [repeating ad nauseum the Western idea of problem solving, i.e. give Karimov and Nazarbayev more money!].  It does point out that there’s still a possibility that the disaster of the Aral Sea could be compounded by oil spills and gas leaks, even in the Little Aral in Kazakhstan.

Oh well.  What could possibly go wrong?



{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Metin 6/9/2010 at 2:01 pm

That’s really good news for Uzbekistan indeed. I am not sure if that will create a lot of new jobs in Aral see region, but it is still an opportunity for the government to raise funds for investing into the economy. Hopefully, that will speed up market liberalization, which in turn will lead to creation of new business opportunities for people.

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2 Metin 6/9/2010 at 2:13 pm

What could possibly go wrong?

the wrong thing could be overwhelming dependency of the economy on energy sector (like the case in Kazakhstan and Russia). Big revenues might make the government lazy – reluctant to go forth with market reforms. Hopefully, that won’t happen.

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3 Metin 6/9/2010 at 2:13 pm

What could possibly go wrong?

the wrong thing could be overwhelming dependency of the economy on energy sector (like the case in Kazakhstan and Russia). Big revenues might make the government lazy – reluctant to go forth with market reforms. Hopefully, that won’t happen.

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4 Samantha 6/9/2010 at 5:31 pm

I think Uzbekistan will try to get all of the rights back to the oil. I don’t think drilling will be an environmental issues since already the drying up of the Aral Sea is an ecological disaster. Exploration and the mentioned possible gas and oil leaks are just something that needs to be dealt with when that time comes or not at all.

From my understanding, the replenishment of the Aral Sea was being funding by the UN and various regional government and NGOs and it kinda successful. I would like to know if anyone has any thoughts on how this will affect the restoration and conservation efforts?

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5 Michael Hancock 6/9/2010 at 5:45 pm

I agree that nationalization of the resources is a possibility, but not before Korea et al build the infrastructure for Uzbekistan to yoink (a la Iran, Venezuela, and to a lesser extent Saudi Arabia).

As for the Aral Sea’s recovery… sigh… are you serious? In Kazakhstan you can talk about guarded success, assuming the Kok Aral dam stays where it is – and it HAS burst before. The more water pours into the little Aral, the more stress the dam will have to take.

As for Uzbekistan, you’re kidding, right? All the development money poured into the Sea has been slowly (or quickly) devoured by the machines of corruption, truly the only industry that operates at high efficiency in Uzbekistan. That’s why this article was such a joke. While Medecins sans Frontieres may have done great work in Karakalpakistan, most NGOs have seen a large portion of their development aid go directly or indirectly into government/middle-man pockets.

The Aral Sea disaster is arguably the best thing to happen to the Karimov regime in the 1990s and early 2000s – they got a global crisis sob story they didn’t deserve and milked it for all it was worth. Probably the moment we all should have known better was some time in 1991… oh well.

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6 Samantha 6/9/2010 at 7:44 pm

Uzbekistan would like to have control over the oil just to have the money and to have power. I totally not uninformed. I am aware of the level of corruption and greed that prevades Uzbekistan and Karimov’s regime. I was solely discussing NGOs and the Aral Sea not in respect to Karimov and his cronies. Karimov sucks anyone and anything dry that he can.

As for the Aral Sea, I solely speaking of conservation efforts as it an ecological disaster (you said so yourself) and how the gas exploration would affect such efforts. From 2001-2008 surface area of the North Aral sea which is separated by the Kol-Aral dam increasing by 30%. Local wildlife is being recorded and more rain is being received in the port city of Aralsk which has experienced increasing dust storms and cold winters. I am not debating whether or not the Kol-Aral dam is well built or not.

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7 Metin 6/10/2010 at 3:32 am

agreed with Michael that most of NGOs are corrupt and make their living through bribes. Too naive to believe that NGOs care about people more than money. Caution needs to be exercised when reading NGO’s stance on environment and other issues.

The Economist criticizes NGOs ties to BP:
http://www.economist.com/node/16274145

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8 Phoenix 6/9/2010 at 9:29 pm

Michael,
Earlier you described a simple and doable way to solve the Aral problem. To refill the sea and end the ecological disaster. This news ends any hope that solutions like that will ever happen.

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9 Michael Hancock 6/9/2010 at 11:45 pm

Absolutely – they were already making money by killing the sea. Now you’ll have them losing money if they save it. Double-effed. Sorry Karakalpakstan. We meant you all the best.

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10 Phoenix 6/10/2010 at 5:49 pm

Metin,
I think what Michael meant is government officials force NGOs to pay bribes. Nobody anywhere pays bribes voluntarily ever.

You say:”agreed with Michael that most of NGOs are corrupt and make their living through bribes.”

Do you also agree with the “government” part of Michael’s sentence? That is:”most NGOs have seen a large portion of their development aid go directly or indirectly into government/middle-man pockets.”

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11 Metin 6/11/2010 at 12:40 am

Pheonix,
contrasting Medicine sans frontier with most NGOs spending their money into ‘government/middle-man pockets’ implies most NGOs working with Aral were ineffective/involved in corruption.

I disagree with you on ‘nobody anywhere pays bribes voluntarily ever’ – one has always an option not to pay. NGOs were not forced to work in Aral, so if they bribed anyone that was in their interest.
Having said that, I never heard of any NGO ever bribed the government in Uzbekistan. You’d better ask Michael; he might shed the light on this.

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12 Phoenix 6/11/2010 at 2:27 pm

Metin,
Government behavior creates corruption. There are thousands of NGOs in the West. You don’t hear of their corrupt actions. If they are corrupt in Uzbekistan, look at the local rules of the game that the government has created.

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