LONDON, September 9 (IranMania) - Kazakhstan's Oil Minister Vladimir Shkolnik said the Central Asian nation could turn to Iran for an extra route to export oil as current pipelines reach their limits in a decade or so, Reuters reported.
The nation, which is about five times the size of France, expects output to surge to 3.5 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2015 from less than half that now, which would put the former Soviet state in the world's superleague of oil producers.
Even after expanding the Caspian Pipeline Consortium route through Russia, the Atyrau-Samara also through Russia, the new Baku-Ceyhan line and shipments to China, Kazakhstan will need to find more room, if current estimates hold, Shkolnik said on the sidelines of a conference for potential investors.
Asked whether Iran would be a possible location for a new pipeline, he said through a translator: "Iran is included in the considerations which are made on this particular issue."
He added, however, that decisions on how to ship oil are made by private oil companies.
Shkolnik also said that swap operations with Iran -- sending Kazakh oil to the north of Iran in exchange for Iranian oil in the south -- could be "rather profitable."
Kazakhstan, now among the world's top 20 oil producers, pins its hopes of future prosperity on developing its Caspian Sea oil riches. Shkolnik reiterated that the government plans to tender Caspian oil blocks next year, but gave no detailed timeframe.
Shkolnik also said he expected the price of oil to fall from current high levels, though he said it was difficult to predict oil prices. A price drop "is only natural, except I don't think it will be as low as $20-$25 a barrel -- maybe $40-$45," he said.
French major Total had said in June that Iran remained a promising future export route for at least part of the crude from Kazakhstan's Kashagan field in the Caspian, despite U.S. opposition to Tehran.
Kashagan, discovered in 1999, was the world's largest offshore field in 30 years and its volumes are so huge that other export routes will be needed, Total's Vice President for the Caspian, Jean Michel Salvadori, said at the time.