Well Conversion Project on D Island/Kashagan Field – Caspian Sea, Kazakhstan

The Kashagan field ranks as one of the largest oil discoveries of the past four decades, with approximately 9-13 billion barrels of recoverable oil.

The Kashagan reservoir lies 80km offshore from the city of Atyrau in 3-4 meters of water and is more than 4km deep. Construction started on an artificial island (D Island) in November 2002 to enable the hydrocarbon recovery along with onshore refinery construction.

The Republic of Kazakhstan government officially declared the start of commercial oil production at Kashagan field in November 2016. By mid-2017, production had reached over 200,000 barrels per day.


The client was awarded the contract by the operator to convert two production wells into injection wells to assist in increasing output from the reservoir. The site has a high gas-oil ratio, very high Hydrogen Sulphide H2S content of 19% and is heavily over-pressured. Due to the extremely high levels of H2S present it is a mandatory that all persons wear full breathing apparatus whenever working on site. The site operators, needed to keep the plant operational during the preparatory stages of the project, which included welding and grinding of both structural steelwork and new pipework that was to be commissioned before shutting the plant down for the final tie in works. Temperatures on site can range from -20°C during Winter with ice formations several metres thick in this relatively shallow area of the Caspian Sea, to well over 40°C during the Summer months.


Due to the unique conditions on the site, our in-country project engineer met with the client representatives to discuss how we could best support them in successfully delivering this project. Although all our electrical equipment is ATEX certified for use in zones 1 & 2, we had the equipment inspected and passed by Kazakhstan regulatory officials to ensure compliance with local legislation requirements. From our base in Atyrau, we were able to quickly freight all required materials to the worksite well before the commencement date of the project. A team of four Safehouse technicians were mobilised from the UK and underwent specialised training on arrival to ensure they were fully prepared for working in such a hostile and unique environment. When the Safehouse technicians arrived on D-Island they were fully prepared and aware of the project requirements, and had all Safehouse materials and equipment on site and ready for use.


The Lead Safehouse technician worked alongside the client supervision team to identify various safe, non-hazardous locations outside the gas-zone for the SAFEHOUSE habitat’s air intake points. After reviewing the drawings and identifying numerous hot work locations, a comprehensive site survey was carried out, along with a thorough risk assessment. We liaised closely with the local scaffolding and electrical teams to ensure relevant parties were fully aware of the habitat requirements at each location. We also agreed temporary lay down areas where the equipment could be stored close by and ready to hand. Acting as qualified Performing Authorities our Safehouse technicians were able to take out the relevant permits, progressing the various work scopes without any impact on client resources. Numerous SAFEHOUSE habitats were constructed at challenging locations over the course of the project, each uniquely tailored to the particular hot work task that was to be carried out. At each SAFEHOUSE habitat location, our Safehouse technicians assisted with the review of the hot work permit and conducted tool-box talks to ensure the work party were familiar with the safe operation of the habitat, and how to act in the event of any emergency.


By the end of the project, around 15 separate SAFEHOUSE habitats had been constructed at various locations on the demanding and challenging site. All hot work progressed speedily without any accident or incidents and both the client and operator expressed their thanks for the proactive involvement of the Safehouse team. The client was able to deliver the project ahead of schedule and within budget, which would not have been possible without the support, experience and assistance of Safehouse for the entirety of the project lifecycle.