Kazakh oil company eyes Mazeikiu, Butinge

  • 2005-06-29
  • Staff and wire reports
VILNIUS - Executives from Kazakhstan's state-owned oil company have expressed interest in exporting crude through Lithuania's Butinge oil terminal and possibly investing in Mazeikiu Nafta's oil refinery, where a change in majority ownership appears imminent.

After meeting with Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas on June 23, a senior executive of KazMunayGaz told reporters that the company was interested in exporting crude via Lithuania's terminal, as well as acquiring a stake in Mazeikiu Nafta, the downstream oil company currently controlled by Russia's debt-shattered Yukos.

"We discussed with the prime minister the possibility of exporting oil via the Butinge terminal. We have technical possibilities for that," Timur Kulibayev, first vice president of KazMunayGaz.

"I believe that in the near term, we could also consider refining crude at the Mazeikiu Nafta plant. [It] is a very interesting object for us," he said.

Kulibayev added that the Kazakh company was interested in Yukos' 53 percent stake in Mazeikiu, and would consider buying it if a proposal was forthcoming.

KazMunayGaz is the third major crude producer to express interest in becoming a strategic investor/oil supplier at Mazeikiu. The others are Lukoil and TNK-BP, both of which have vast hydrocarbon reserves in Russia. At a time when oil is going for $60 per barrel and likely to continue its climb, producers are searching for ways to increase refining capacity, particularly for high-grade gasoline and diesel.

It was reported that, while in Vilnius, KazMunayGaz executives met colleagues from Chevron, though it is not known what the two sides discussed. The two companies are currently part of a consortium that is exploiting the Tengiz oil deposit in western Kazakhstan, believed to be one of the most lucrative crude production projects in the region.

In Lithuania, Chevron owns Hydro Texaco, a retail operator that owns 16 unmanned gas stations Uno-X and five unmanned Diesel Service stations.

At the very least, the Kazakhs are looking for additional export routes. Kulibayev said that KazMunayGaz could export up to 8 million tons of crude through Butinge annually, though he added that no cooperation would materialize without first letting Russia in on the deal.

"Of course, it is also important to coordinate this with the Russian side," he said.

For his part, PM Brazauskas, who wants to secure reliable supplies for the Mazeikiu refinery - the only one in the Balitcs - appeared optimistic about possible cooperation.

"Kazakhstan has for years been interested in cooperation, which would give it access to the Baltic Sea. The company's production currently amounts to some 60 million tons and is planned to double or triple within the next 10 years," Brazauskas said.