Tengiz Oilfield and Processing Plant, Kazakhstan


TengizChevroil (TCO) is a multibillion dollar 40 year long project that started in 1993 as a result of an agreement between the then-two year-old Kazakhstani government and the Chevron executives. The contracts between Chevron and Kazakhstan are not publicly available and that creates complications in accessing data about plans, payments, royalties, and any other crucial information [1]. Ever since the project’s conception, numerous ecological, health and labour-related problems have persisted.

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Basic Data
NameTengiz Oilfield and Processing Plant, Kazakhstan
ProvinceAtirauskaya Oblast'
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Gas flaring
Specific CommoditiesCrude oil
Natural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsOne of the world's deepest onshore reservoirs: 4,000-6,000m deep into the ground.

Reported deposits: 26 billion crude oil barrels, of which recoverable: 23%-35%. Extremely high concentration of sulfur (around 17%).

In 2013, 581 thousand crude oil bbl/day were extracted. With further development, 800 thousand crude oil bbl/day extraction is expected. In the same year, 251 billion cubic feet of natural gas were extracted.

Shares in the project:

TengizChevrOil (TCO) is the consortium operated by Chevron, with the following breakdown of shares in the project:

Chevron- 50%,

Exxon Mobil- 25%,

KazMunaiGaz- 20%,

LukArco (Lukoil) - 5%.
Project Area (in hectares)250,000
Level of Investment (in USD)20,000,000,000.00
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population3,500-4,000
Start Date01/01/1993
Company Names or State Enterprises from United States of America
ExxonMobil Corporation (Exxon) from United States of America
KazMunaiGaz (KMG) from Kazakhstan
Lukoil from Russian Federation
Relevant government actorsKazakhstani President N. Nazarbayev

The Ministry of Energy of RoK, headed by V.S. Shkolnik

The Ministry of Environmental Protection of RoK

Atirau Oblast' Department of Ecology, headed by E. Kuanov
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersNGO:

-Kaspiy Tabigati

-Crude Accountability



Scientific community, headed by PhD Muftah Diarov.
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndustrial workers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Referendum other local consultations
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Oil spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other environmental related diseases
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of AlternativesPhD M. Diarov has drafted his proposals as follows:

-Enforce control of mercaptanes' and other toxical gases 'such as H2S emission into the atmosphere

- Enforce strict regulations on the storage and amounts of sulfur allowed to store

- Implement complex multi-level ecological studies of the area to assess TCO's impact on the entire region, not just the assigned zone with the radius of 10km.

-Limit and reduce the amount of oil drilled at Tengiz. Current levels of 24 million tons/yr are a strain on the environment. With planned expansion to 36 million tons/yr the situation will get even worse.

-Create in Atirau an independent ecological center to monitor and critically analyze the situation around Tengiz
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Partially, it has been served. Since newer technology has been implemented and the level of pollution per each ton extracted have been reduced.

In addition, infrastructure and education initiatives have been followed thru in Aktau and Kulsari.

However, citizens keep experiencing symptoms of poor health, fine payments do not even reach the regional government, and poisonous effects on the environment remain not assessed.

The issue is complicated by unwillingness on the part of TCO to make information public related to their financial contracts and labour relations.

Further, TCO promises that their expansion will not affect the environment, relying on the findings of their contractor ecological firms. However, public greatly distrusts such findings and citizens keep calling for unbiased and impartial examination of the area.

In general, citizens do not trust the goodwill of the company, stating that the government and TCO do not wish to address pressing issues of environmental and health degradation, but only focus on economic and strategic benefits.
Sources and Materials

Poor People by William T. Vollmann has a large section dedicated to the people of Sarykamys village
[click to view]


[1] Article mentions absence of publicly available contracts and in general presents a more US-based explanation of events:
[click to view]

[2] Interview with NGO Kaspiy Tabigati Director:
[click to view]

[4] M. Diarov’s appeals to create Atirau-based ecological funds:
[click to view]

[5] Compilation of chronology of the TCO labour conflicts, all gathered from unofficial sources and workers’ reports:
[click to view]

[6] M. Diarov on health commission’s findings in 1997-2003:
[click to view]

[8] Dr. Diarov’s detailed report that outlines the harm to biological life of the region:
[click to view]

[9] M. Diarov’s proposals for change:
[click to view]

[10] Kulsari Improvement:
[click to view]

Facts about the Tengiz Oilfield
[click to view]

Info about companies invested in the project:
[click to view]

U.S. Energy Information Administration latest (2015) report about Kazakhstan oil sector, expanding on Tengiz
[click to view]

[3] About the 7$ million fine:
[click to view]

[11] Publicly held consultation on April 13, 2012
[click to view]

[12] The fine in December 2015:
[click to view]

[13] Slowing down of production in response to weak oil prices:
[click to view]

[14] Treatment of the last ton of stored sulfur:
[click to view]

Media Links

Poisonous gas emission from one of TengizChevroil plant facilities as recored by a common observer
[click to view]

TengizChevroil was blamed for not purchasing enough of locally made technical equipment by deeming it to be 'automatically of lower quality'
[click to view]

Other Documents

[7] Detailed report by the NGO Crude Accountability:
[click to view]

An accident on a TCO gas processing plant
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorYevgeniya Yatsenko, MICLA McGill University, [email protected]
Last update18/02/2016