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Will Europe go shopping for oil in the Caspian Sea?

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Leon Neal/Reuters/File

(Read caption) A general view shows the Bolashak oil plant on the Kashagan offshore oil field near Atyrau in Kazakhstan.

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There may be as much as 48 billion barrels of oil and 292 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Caspian region. There's probably even more yet to be discovered. In June, a BP-led consortium operating in the Shah Deniz natural gas field in the Caspian Sea chose a pipeline option that could redraw the European energy map. On Wednesday, operators at one of the largest oil fields in the world, Kashagan, announced the first well was opened for production. With Russian energy shifting its focus elsewhere, the Caspian region may be fast becoming Europe's preferred choice for oil and gas.

The North Caspian Operating Co. announced Wednesday it produced the first barrels of oil from the Kashagan oil field in the Kazakh waters of the Caspian Sea. NCOC said Kashagan, discovered in 2000, is likely the largest field of its kind with an estimated 35 billion barrels of oil in place. Italian energy company Eni, in charge of the start of production, said initial Kashagan operations would give up around 180,000 barrels of oil per day and eventually ramp up from there. (Related article: Australia NSW to Become Natgas Boom Region?)

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