MOSCOW, (Reuters) - Vitol, the world's top oil trader, plans to access liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) from the giant Kashagan field in Kazakhstan and may finance the construction of a processing and export facility, industry and company sources told Reuters.
LPG is mainly a by-product of oil development at the field and at the moment there is no infrastructure for refining, storage and transportation of LPG from Kashagan.
The new facility, expected to be commissioned about two years from now, will desulfurize liquid propane-butane mix delivered by pipeline from Kashagan's Bolashak plant, fraction it into propane (some 70-75 percent) and butane (some 25-30 percent) and tranship to railway tank cars.
Vitol, Kazakhstan's largest crude offtaker, is ready to invest in the project - worth over $300 million - as soon as this year to build a facility annually producing 500,000 tonnes of propane and butane, according to Reuters sources.
The trader has approached North Caspian Operating Co (NCOC), the field operator, and Kashagan's shareholders with a proposal to build the LPG processing and export facility near Karabatan railway station in the Atyraus region, but no immediate reaction followed.
Vitol declined to comment, but Vitol sources confirmed the trader's interest in the project.
The sources said that according to the Kazakh government's schedule, the plant is set to be commissioned in 2021.
"NCOC has no comment on any commercial discussions that may be ongoing at this time," the consortium said in a statement.
Kazakhstan's Energy Ministry provided no comment.
The new facility may help Vitol boost its presence in the Kazakh LPG export sector. Vitol plans to deliver propane and butane to the global market via Russia's Black Sea terminal in Taman, where Vitol has a transhipment contract.
The proposed terms of cooperation between Vitol and Kashagan's stakeholders were not immediately clear, sources said.
"Vitol wants to buy low-grade LPG, purify it and sell via Taman," a source familiar with the matter said.
Kashagan, one of the biggest oil discoveries in recent history, started commercial output in late 2016 after years of delays and currently produces about 350,000 barrels of crude per day.
Natural gas output at Kashagan in 2018 reached 6.8 billion cubic metres, Kazakh Energy Ministry data shows.
Kashagan operator NCOC includes Eni, Total , Shell, ExxonMobil, Kazakh state firm KazMunayGaz, China's CNPC and Japan's Inpex. (Additional reporting by Gleb Gorodyankin; Writing by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Dale Hudson)