The international consortium of Uzbek national holding company «Uzbekneftegaz», Russian «Lukoil» and China’s CNPC intends in 2017 to begin proceeding additional exploration, arrangement and development of hydrocarbon deposits in the Aral Sea. Currently works on the exploration part are on the final stage. This year it is planned to drill two appraisal wells, taking into account the results of seismic and exploratory drilling.
In 2005 international consortium founded JV «Aral Sea Operating Company» as operator of exploration work. Till now it is opened and validated appraisal drilling hydrocarbon reserves amount to 16 million tons of equivalent fuel.
Further intensive development of oil and gas fields will lead to an artificial drying of the Aral Sea with the subsequent deterioration of the ecological situation in the Aral Sea region.
Against this background ecology predicts the following negative factors:
Firstly, the landscape of the Aral Sea basin, which currently retains water, located in an area suspected of drilling and survey and assessment work near «Umid», «Western Aral» and «Ak-Tepe». Their artificial drainage will lead to shallowing of the northern part of the so-called the South Aral Sea.
Secondly, given the permanent, the strongest annual and seasonal winds in the region, there is a risk of raising dust, salt and other chemicals with the drained areas and their negative impact on the climate, biological and demographic situation in the region.
Third, the features and characteristics of the land on which it is supposed to study and identify gas fields may require expansion of technological work deep into the waters of the Aral Sea.
In this regard, the works on assessing the prospects of the east of the Aral Sea, which were conducted by the operator since the start of the project from 2006 to 2011 were unsuccessful. In the absence of the expected hydrocarbon reserves, developers decided to continue exploration in the north-west direction in the blocks «West Aral» and «Umid». Prospects discovered gas reserves shows that in the medium term will begin prospecting for new sites using more aggressive techniques, containing serious risks to the ecological system of the region. It is noted that about 25% of the work falls on the deep-water area, it is up to 40 meters and 25% for transit and the coastal zone, and only 50% of the land.
By the way it should be noted that the intention of the major foreign investors to participate in the implementation of the project dictated by geopolitical interests rather than economic calculations.