TotalEnergies has promised that commissioning of the long-awaited Absheron offshore gas development in Azerbaijan’s deep-water sector of the Caspian Sea will happen in a matter of weeks.
Speaking at an energy conference in the country’s capital of Baku on Thursday, TotalEnergies senior vice president for European exploration and production Jean-Luc Guiziou said that first gas and condensate will flow from the Absheron deep-water field to processing facilities “within the next several weeks”, according to news agency Interfax-Azerbaijan.
The progress of Absheron is being closely watched in Europe, where officials hope to double imports of Azerbaijan gas over the next several years to compensate for lost Russian pipeline gas deliveries.
According to a partner with Baku-based energy consultancy Caspian Barrel Ilham Shaban, the first 50 billion cubic metres of Absheron gas output are reserved for the supply to the domestic market, to help free up volumes from other Azeri projects for export.
Once the domestic supply commitment is achieved, gas from Absheron could be exported to help fulfil Baku’s promises of higher gas deliveries to Europe, Shaban said.
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Covid-related shutdowns delayed completion of the production platform jackets and topsides for the Absheron receiving platform and forced the startup date to be pushed back repeatedly.
According to TotalEnergies, the early production system scheme for Absheron is based on the tie-back of one subsea well, known as ABD001, to a shallow-water receiving platform near Azeri national oil company Socar’s operated Oil Rocks field, 34 kilometres to the north.
Socar is a 50% partner with TotalEnergies in Absheron.
After gas and liquid are separated on the platform, produced gas and condensate will be exported to shore through existing Socar infrastructure.
Natural gas will be delivered to the Azeri domestic market and condensate shipped to export destinations via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline through a swap agreement, TotalEnergies said.
The early production system schedule calls for annual production of about 1.5 billion cubic metres of gas, providing enough time and revenue for the partners to move ahead with a full development plan that will increase gas production to 5 Bcm per annum.
Absheron is believed to contain recoverable gas reserves of about 350 Bcm and more than 800 million barrels of condensate.
Authorities in Baku hope that the startup of early gas production at Absheron will revive interest from major international oil and gas investors that has waned since BP exited another Caspian exploration project in Azerbaijan known as the Shallow Water Absheron Peninsula (SWAP) block.
Shaban has suggested in an earlier blog post that Norway’s Equinor could relinquish another Caspian block, Karabagh, due to a lack of exploration progress since a successful exploration well was completed in early 2020.
An Equinor spokesperson in Oslo told Upstream the company would not comment “on speculation” and had nothing “new to communicate on the status” of the Karabagh development.
Equinor holds a 50% stake in the Karabagh project, and Socar has the remaining interest.
Azerbaijan has been trying to bring foreign players to Karabagh since the mid-1990s. In May 2018, Equinor and Socar signed a risk service agreement related to the appraisal and development of the asset.