In mid-December 2017, Van Oord dredging and marine of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, announced that it had finished dredging operations in Kazakhstan on a 72-kilometer-long (44.7-mile) access channel to the Caspian Sea. The new Prorva Access Channel was constructed to allow for the transport of construction modules to the Tengiz oil field, where new facilities are being erected to increase the production capacity. Tengiz oil field is located at an extremely remote location in northwestern Kazakhstan’s low-lying wetlands along the northeastern shores of the Caspian Sea. It covers a 2,500 square kilometer area (970 square miles) and is 19 kilometers (12 miles) wide and 21 kilometers (13 miles) long, making it one of the largest discoveries in recent history. The city of Atyrau, located 350 kilometers (220 miles) north of Tengiz, is the main transport hub of Tengiz oil field. Many nations are involved in a large geopolitical competition to secure access to this source of oil.
Prorva Channel creates a sea access to these attractive oil reserves. Kazakhstan has over 150 oil fields, of which the Tengiz field is one of the largest. It has developed into an important link between Russia, China and Europe and is reinforcing this position by expanding its oil and gas industry. The new channel is an important part of new infrastructure being created to facilitate this growth.
The remoteness of the location and the very harsh winters required resourceful measures during project execution and dredging was only possible between April and October. Furthermore, the region’s limited infrastructure and facilities made logistics unusually complex. Four cutter suction dredges, including the Ural River and Mangystau, assisted by more than 30 support vessels, worked simultaneously to get the job done. To allow for in-situ repairs and maintenance of the support vessels, Van Oord designed and built a floating workshop barge complete with ship lift facility, hydraulic crane and on-board workshop.
Another priority was to protect various endangered species, such as birds and seals, during dredging operations. Van Oord closely cooperated with independent wildlife observers in order to protect the local flora and fauna. In addition, 32 sand deposit sites were created alongside the access channel. Sixteen of these form islands which are already attracting animals for resting and breeding. This video link shows the work.