On July 1, worker symbolically welded a joint on the Caspian oil pipeline, officially marking the commencement of an upgrade designed to double its capacity by 2015. Chevron corporation, 15% owner of the pipeline and 50% owner of the Tengiz oil field that feeds it, issued a statement: "The capacity of the 900 mile pipeline, which carries crude oil from Western Kazakhstan to a dedicated terminal in the Black Sea, will increase to 1.4 million barrels a day from its current capacity of 730,000 barrels a day," according to the statement. Chevron added that the project will take place in three phases.
"CPC is a key strategic asset for Chevron and adds to our strong position in the region. Chevron greatly appreciates the efforts of all shareholders, especially the representatives of Transneft and KazMunaiGaz, in reaching this important landmark." said Neftogaz President Andrew McGrahan. "CPC is a model of cooperation between Russia and Kazakhstan and is an indication of the confidence we have in Russia and in oil transportation from the Caspian region. This groundbreaking event represents years of dedication and commitment to expanding the commercial links between the two countries and sends a powerful signal that Russia and Kazakhstan are countries where major, long-term capital investments can be made with confidence."
According to the statement, the project will consist of the refurbishment of the existing five pump stations, the addition of 10 new pumping stations, the replacement of a 55-mile (88-km) section of the line, six new storage tanks and the addition of a third offshore mooring point at the Black Sea terminal, six miles (10 km) north of the Port of Novorossiysk. CPC awarded all the major construction contracts in May 2011.
The expansion was approved unanimously in December 2010 by the members of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium. In March 2011, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbaev renewed his pledge to Russian President Dmiitry Medvedev to expand the pipeline and continue to use Russian territory as a transit corridor, despite the lack of a binding oil transit deal, reports the Asia Times.
The doubling of oil shipments to Novorossiysk may double the risk of a potential oil spill in the Bosphorus straits. According to Kairgeldy Kabyldin, Chairman of the Board of the Kazakhstan state energy firm KazMunaiGas, "Today we are transporting about 26 million (tons per year) of Kazakhstani oil through this pipeline. It mainly goes through the Bosporus to the Southern Europe countries," reports the web site New Europe. Faced with the possibility of an ecological disaster, Russia had previously said they would not approve the expansion of the pipeline unless the Burgas-Alexandroupolis were built to bypass the waterway. Russia relented, however, because they will be diverting some of their production to China, and they claim the amount of oil transiting the Bosphorus will remain about the same.