The consortium's work will focus on the Kazakhstan waters, and will be the most comprehensive yet undertaken of the region as well as being the biggest single oil and gas survey undertaken anywhere in the world.
The inland sea is surrounded by some of the world's largest proven fields. The consortium includes British Gas, Agip, BP/Statoil, Mobil, Shell and Total.
The companies hope to have exclusive negotiating rights on certain blocks if the three-year study is successful. They join a new nationally owned company, KazakhstanCaspishelf, which will act as operator. Depending on the study's results, off- shore licences are scheduled to be issued in 1996, to be followed by drilling in 1997 and production in 2000.
Analysts have said the area could contain as much as 35 billion barrels of crude oil. British Gas, together with Agip, has already won the exclusive right to negotiate a final agreement for the further development of the Karachaganak field in Western Kazakhstan.
The announcement of the Caspian Sea study comes soon after a drive by the CBI to increase business with Kazakhstan.Reuse content