Kazakhstan Energy and Environment Facts

Natural resources, energy and environment

Kazakhstan has extensive assets of oil, natural gas and minerals. In the mines, for example, chromium, copper, gold and uranium are mined. The country is riddled with enormous environmental problems, a legacy of the Soviet era (1920-1991). Desiccation of the Aral Sea is considered one of the world’s largest environmental disasters.

The oil deposits are still only partially utilized. Some recovery began during the Soviet era, but it declined after independence. From the mid-1990s, foreign investment began to reach the country and production gradually picked up. Both oil and gas recovery increased sharply after the turn of the millennium.

  • COUNTRYAAH: Major exports by Kazakhstan with a full list of the top products exported by the country. Includes trade value in U.S. dollars and the percentage for each product category.

Large foreign interests are involved in the exploitation. The state-owned company Kazmunaigas also participates.

Most of the oil and gas are in a few large fields. The first thing that attracted foreign investment was Tengiz’s northeast of the Caspian Sea. From the Tengiz field, a 150-mile-long oil pipeline goes west over Russian territory to a port on the Black Sea. When the management was inaugurated in 2001, it meant a breakthrough for Kazakhstan as an oil exporter. Another large field is Karatjaganak in northwestern Kazakhstan, where there are large quantities of both oil and gas.

  • Abbreviationfinder: A popular acronym site in the world covering abbreviation for each country. For example, KGF stands for Kazakhstan. Visit itypeusa for more information about Kazakhstan.

Easily accessible oil

Kazakhstan’s hopes of becoming one of the world’s largest oil producers are mainly linked to the Kasjagan field, which was discovered in 2000 under the Caspian Sea. Kashagan is estimated to be the largest oil field in the world outside the Middle East. However, it has proved difficult to exploit. The oil is in pockets deep below the sea surface and large amounts of hydrogen sulphide make the work dangerous. Kazakh authorities and the international consortium are running the exploitation have had conflicts over the terms of cost, security and environmental impact. Production was initially planned to start in 2005, but only in September 2013 was an attempt to start extraction. It had to be canceled after only a few weeks due to a gas leak and the recovery did not start again until 2016.

In 1997, Kazakhstan signed an agreement with China that was granted the right to extract oil and natural gas in the western and northern parts of the country.

The mineral resources include chromium, copper, gold, iron, lead, zinc and tungsten. Uranium deposits are estimated to account for almost one-fifth of the world’s reserves and in 2009 Kazakhstan became the world-leading exporter of uranium. Furthermore, the country has plenty of rare earth metals, which are in demand by the electronics industry. Western companies have invested in ore mining.

Kazakhstan also has huge assets of coal. Large quantities of coal are transported by rail to industries in Russia. Coal power plants account for just over 70 percent of electricity generation, while natural gas and hydroelectric power account for the rest. Hydropower is mainly extracted from the Irtysh River. Despite its own fossil fuels, Kazakhstan has at times had serious feelings of energy shortages.

The environmental disaster with Lake Aral

The disaster with the Aral Sea (see also Geography and Climate) was caused by a decision that the Soviet Union would become self-sufficient in cotton. Huge crops were planted in desert areas and to irrigate them, water was diverted from the two large rivers that flow into the Aral Sea, Syria-Darja and Amu-Darja. The lake soon began to shrink. According to estimates, in 2007 only one tenth of Aral remained, which was also divided into four or five smaller lakes with ever higher salinity.

From the dry seabed, the winds disperse finely divided salt, mixed with insect poisons from the cotton crops, over surrounding areas. From there comes reports of serious health problems among the population.

However, an attempt to save the northern “small” Aral Sea, the part located in Kazakhstan, has produced results. The lake, with money from the World Bank, has been shielded by a mile-long dam. This has contributed to a larger water surface, reduced salinity, increased fish quantity and new economic opportunities. The flow in Syr-Darja, which flows into Lilla Aral, has also increased thanks to better irrigation technology. However, the southern parts of the lake, which is mainly located in Uzbekistan, have continued to shrink. Only a fraction of the original water surface remains.

Explosions of nuclear weapons

In the Semipalatinsk area in the northeast, nuclear weapons explosions were conducted from 1949 to 1989. Until 1963, nuclear charges were blasted off the ground, initially without the most elementary protection of the population in the area. Knowledge of the long-term effects of radiation is inadequate. Uncertainty is increasing the psychological pressure on the residents of Semipalatinsk (or Semey, as the city is now called). Around one million people are estimated to have been damaged by the test blasts.


Energy use per person

4,434 kilos of oil equivalent (2014)

Electricity consumption per person

5600 kilowatt hours, kWh (2014)

Carbon dioxide emissions in total

248 315 thousand tonnes (2014)

Carbon dioxide emissions per inhabitant

14.4 tonnes (2014)

The share of energy from renewable sources

1.6 percent (2015)



The opposition goes together

The two opposition parties Azat and NSDP merge and now call themselves Azat-NSDP. They also claim to have invited Alga and the Communist Party, which however declined.

Big deals with France

French President Nicolas Sarkozy visits Kazakhstan and signs energy and business deals worth $ 6 billion.

MR activist is sentenced to death

Human rights activist Yevgeny Zhivti is convicted of a car accident. According to several human rights groups, Zhovotis has not received a fair trial.


Freedom of expression is restricted

A law is adopted that involves stricter monitoring of chat forums and blogs. The law means that one can be folded to express certain views in channels that are considered mass media.

Kazakhstan Energy and Environment FactsKazakhstan Energy and Environment Facts

About the author