British-based BP is negotiating with Russia’s Rosneft to buy a stake in an oil field in eastern Siberia, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the talks who spoke with several news organizations.
The talks concern the Taas-Yuriakh field, which is situated near a pipeline leading to Russia’s Pacific coast. It would supply refineries in Russia’s Far East and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, including China.
By 2017, the Taas-Yuriakh field will yield more 100,000 barrels a day, or more than 5 million metric tons a year. The field also contains an estimated 155 billion cubic meters of natural gas. BP’s share in the field may be as high as $700 million or even $800 million, according to the Russian business journal Kommersant, which broke the story on Dec. 24.
The Russian government owns a majority stake in Rosneft, but BP owns nearly 20 percent and has stood by its commitment to the Russian oil giant despite economic sanctions imposed on Moscow’s oil industry by the European Union and the United States for its suspected role in the economic instability and violent unrest in neighboring Ukraine.
Those sanctions forbid Russian oil companies to obtain Western technology for shale and offshore oil extraction and limit its access to Western financial markets for financing their initiatives. But they don’t forbid Western companies from buying Russian assets, such as shares in oil fields. Therefore the sanctions wouldn’t apply to any BP-Rosneft deal.
Oil and gas account for about half of Moscow’s annual budget, and President Vladimir Putin lately has been seeking to expand sales of Russian oil and gas eastward as it loses customers in the West, notably in the European Union. Europeans feel they cannot rely on Moscow to provide energy reliably. EU customers now get about one-third of their gas from Russia, half of it through pipelines in Ukraine.
As part of its eastward push, Russia has been negotiating with the China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) about developing the Taas-Yuriakh field. At one point, about a year ago, the field was to have become the base for a joint venture between Russia and China to explore for oil and produce it.
But if BP succeeds in buying a stake in Taas-Yuriakh, it would ease Rosneft’s current financial burden. Because of the sanctions and the plummeting price of oil, Rosneft reports that its net debt rose to $45 billion by the end of the third quarter of 2015.
BP’s involvement also would help exploit the field and improve its efficiency, minimizing delays in exploration and production. That’s according to Alex Fak and Valery Nesterov, two analysts at Russia’s Sberbank, a savings institution in which the Russian government owns a majority share.
“This removes at least one source of concern for a company that has spread itself too thinly over the past couple of years,” Fak and Nesterov wrote in a research paper.
By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com
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