Western oil companies have received less than a glorious welcome in Kazakhstan, where they are attempting to develop big, relatively newly discovered oilfields.  

One group, led by Italy's Eni (NYSE:E), is facing a $7 billion bill from the Kazakhs related to delays and cost overruns at the huge Kashagan oilfield that the group -- including such integrated producers as Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS-A) (NYSE:RDS-B), ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), France's Total (NYSE:TOT), and ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) -- is trying to develop. Negotiations are ongoing.

Kazakhstan's rough approach at Kashagan matches similar belly-bumping by the government against a second group, which goes by the catchy moniker Tengizchevroil. It's led by Chevron (NYSE:CVX) and also includes ExxonMobil. The group is developing the massive Tengiz oilfield in the western part of the Central Asian state.

Tengizchevroil has been fined $609 million by the Kazakh government for an alleged failure to deal effectively with sulfur, which is a byproduct of the dangerous and toxic hydrogen sulfide gas in the field. Chevron has said it will fight the fine in court.

With the Kazakhs leaning on both consortia, I'll be interested in a reaction from ExxonMobil, should it care to offer one. A member of both groups, the company has evidenced some frustration with bullying governments in countries where it's worked. It's pursuing arbitration in Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez has removed half a dozen Western companies from operating positions in the Orinoco basin. And it hasn't been a particularly happy camper in Russia, where it has said it won't enter into new projects in that nation until the role and treatment of Western companies there becomes clearer.

All this demonstrates that the politics of the global search for oil and gas are becoming as trying as the geology. It's yet another reason for my Foolish friends to keep a close eye on energy markets and both eyes on their own energy investments.

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith can't stop writing about the companies mentioned long enough to buy shares in them. He does welcome your questions or comments. The Motley Fool has an internationally recognized disclosure policy.