The road to Masabai


Forty-five kilometers northeast of the city of Kulsary, deep in the steppe wilderness, is the Masabay oil field. It was discovered in 1977, and in 1980 exploratory drilling was completed, which showed that the field stores oil deposits with high quality indicators. Masabai was classified as a shallow (up to 10 million tons of recoverable oil) field. But it was of industrial importance, and therefore Masabai immediately began to prepare for further development. In the steppe, silhouettes of pumping machines and oil tanks grew, and the roar of drilling rigs filled the surroundings.
On May 22, our film crew went to Masabay, because on the arrangement of this particular field, back in 1996, the company “Ariadne” began its construction activities.

We knew that Masabay is located 15-20 km from the village of Koschagyl, but it was not possible to find more accurate coordinates, because the point with this name is not indicated on modern interactive maps. In Koschagyl, they decided to find out the way from local residents, but received contradictory answers. There was an impression that the name of the field was well known to people, but no one knew its exact location. What’s the matter, we’re in the land of oil workers?
We still went in a southerly direction – many pointed in this direction. After a while, the road was completely empty: there was not a single oncoming car, not to mention passers-by. Finally, I met a truck. We checked with the driver – it turned out that we were moving in the wrong direction, and we had to return. But we didn’t manage to leave right away. The treacherous road pierced the rear wheel with a sharp stone, as if deciding to detain at least for a short time the rare travelers in these parts. The spare tire came to the rescue.

And yet, our expedition, apparently, was destined to take place – we, although we had already traveled along the intricate steppe roads, still found Masabay.
Now the field is mothballed, oil production is not carried out here. In an old shabby trailer, only the watchman Amanbay, the former head of the site. He lives here in shifts, guards the “base”. And the base is a pile of fishing equipment concentrated in several places – a rickety drilling rig, a pair of rusted rocking machines, a car from which only the cab and frame remained … True, the cylinders of oil tanks, grayish from faded “silver” paint, and locked production facilities are in good condition. But the valves of the pipes through which oil once flowed are welded. A sad sight, to be honest.

“We built these houses,” Vasily Ivanovich Romanchuk, a veteran of Ariadne, who took part in the arrangement of Masabay, looks around the site with undisguised disappointment.

“But then people wanted so much to launch the field, to get oil …
In the mid-nineties, the assessment of the reserves of this oil structure explored by geologists made it possible to begin its industrial development. It was a difficult time – a crisis. The newly organized company “Ariadne” and the oil workers found each other. “Ariadne” had experienced builders, Masabay had some means. Vasily Ivanovich told with what hopes and enthusiasm the field was prepared for development.

After all, we received our first major amount of work in Masabay, before that we worked, one might say, in the wings, – recalls V. Romanchuk. – And this is the former SU-4, a powerful construction department! And then there was hope. There was little equipment, so the small construction team of our young company had to work almost manually.

At that time, Ariadne was faced with the task of arranging wells. It was necessary to dig a pit, stretch an oil pipeline and auxiliary pipe lines. At the same time, power lines were pulled.

“We had only a few bulldozers, excavators and pipelayers, the team of our workers worked hard, not sparing themselves,” Vasily Ivanovich continues the story. – Work at the field was dirty, besides, there were no amenities for workers at all. The object was located at an impressive distance from the nearest settlement. Both materials and food were brought to us off-road, with great difficulty. But, despite any difficulties, our young company then successfully coped with the amount of work. And what about today?..























Today, standing in the middle of the steppe is a dull, sad, rusted and actually abandoned to the mercy of fate. With the advent of a nearby oil giant that produces more oil per day than all the small fields combined, structures like Masabai have lost industrial importance. And the oil industry of Kazakhstan itself quickly reoriented itself to a large scale. Some deposits were simply abandoned, others were given into private hands, privatized. Only a few survived, those where there was more oil. Masabai, on the other hand, has been in sleep mode for many years, as they say now. Maybe it’s time for him to wake up?..
When we left, we had mixed feelings. How sad it is to see the collapse of some undertakings and, possibly, irreversible consequences. They say that Masabai could be exploited with a small profit, there is oil on this structure. But now Kazakhstan has more stringent standards, especially in the environment. To meet them, Masabay needs substantial modernization. And it costs a lot of money, which is not there. It’s a shame for this field.
But I am happy for “Ariadne”, who equipped Masabai, in fact, starting her production activities with him. This year we are celebrating our twenty-fifth anniversary as a successful, stable and reputable construction company, with a strong position in the Tengiz field and great prospects for the future.