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A $30 Billion Hole in the Caspian Sea?

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For more than a decade, the promised bonanza from Kazakhstan’s giant offshore Kashagan oil field has been a costly mirage for its developers. And the wait still isn’t over.

The companies backing the project—which include Exxon Mobil Corp., Eni Spa and Royal Dutch Shell PLC—in March missed the startup date Eni predicted last year. And now, after a decade of work and more than $30 billion in expenses, it isn’t clear when one of the world’s biggest untapped fields will produce its first drop of oil.

Eni CEO Paolo Scaroni said last month the operators “are going to begin production …

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