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Nick Cunningham

Nick Cunningham

Nick Cunningham is an independent journalist, covering oil and gas, energy and environmental policy, and international politics. He is based in Portland, Oregon. 

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Exxon, BP Defy White House; Extend Partnership with Russia

Several of the largest oil companies in the world are doubling down in Russia despite moves by the West to isolate Russia and its economy. ExxonMobil and BP separately signed agreements with Rosneft – Russia’s state-owned oil company – to extend and deepen their relationships for energy exploration. The U.S. slapped sanctions on Rosneft’s CEO Igor Sechin in late April, freezing his assets and preventing him from obtaining visas.

However, the sanctions do not extend to Rosneft itself, allowing western companies to continue to do business with the Russian oil giant. ExxonMobil signed an agreement with Rosneft, extending its partnership to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal on Russia’s pacific coast. Known as the Far East LNG project, the export terminal will receive natural gas from Russia’s eastern fields as well as from Sakhalin-1, an island off Russia’s east coast. Rosneft announced the deal in a press release on its website on May 23.

The following day, Rosneft and BP signed an agreement to jointly explore oil in the Volga-Urals region. It will consist of a pilot project in the Domanik formations, and if successful could lead to the development of shale oil in Russia. Rosneft will maintain a 51 percent ownership of the joint venture and BP will own 49 percent.

The signing of the agreement occurred during a ceremony at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. The oil majors attended despite pressure from the White House to boycott the event. Many big name companies chose not to attend even though they have large economic interests in Russia, including PepsiCo, German companies E.ON and Siemens, and some of the biggest banks in the U.S.

By defying the White House, the oil majors salvaged what would have otherwise been an embarrassing event for the Kremlin. The absence of the world’s largest companies would have demonstrated Russia’s increasing isolation. Instead, Russia used the event to detail plans to expand its massive energy sector. “(They're) eager to continue work on projects in Russia,” Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak said of ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell.

BP CEO Bob Dudley emphasized his company’s determination to stick with Russia. “We are very pleased to be a part of Russian energy complex,” he said at the forum. “President (Putin) has urged us today to invest into shale oil... There's so many natural resources in Russia, the openness and partnerships Russia has with companies from all over the world is a good thing for energy,” Dudley added.

Related Article: The Dangers Of Doing Business With Putin’s Russia

Even though there are international sanctions on Rosneft’s Igor Sechin, Dudley insisted that their business with Rosneft will continue. “It does not affect our cooperation with the company itself,” Dudley said, referring to sanctions on Rosneft’s boss. He was even able to meet Sechin privately.

French oil giant Total S.A. also signed an agreement with Lukoil – Russia’s second largest oil company – to explore for shale oil and gas. Total’s chief executive Christophe de Margerie also went to lengths to reassure the Russian hosts. “My message to Russia is simple – business as usual,” he said at the event.

To be clear, the oil companies are not legally running afoul of international sanctions. But their collective shrug in the face of European and American pressure to boycott Russia – along with the $400 billion natural gas deal Russia signed with China last week – illustrates the difficulty with which the West will have at undermining Russia’s energy sector, if it chose to do so. Russia is too big of a prize for the likes of ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell.

Or viewed another way, the moves to deepen business in Russia suggest that the world’s biggest oil companies are confident that the U.S. and Europe won’t be so bold as to truly attack Russia’s energy machine.

By Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com




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Leave a comment
  • charles hoffman on May 28 2014 said:
    The major oil companies aren't defying "the White House" or even Barak Obama by increasing their dealings with the Russian kleptocracy.

    They're defying logic, by assuming that they'll be capable of controlling a situation which acts in non-linear and totally irrational manners; and they're defying the consensus will of the American people.

    They may ultimately find that when their relationships with Russia sour, the American people will be loath to expend its political capital to bail them out of their geopolitical problems
  • C. Gonzo on May 29 2014 said:
    Just goes to show you that all of these countries are in bed together in their attempt at globalisation. The supposed sanctions are just a front, a cover - it's business as usual.
  • M.Vasilyeva on May 30 2014 said:
    It's good to know that some sense still remains in the world gone crazy. While the fools in the White House seem to be working hard at starting the 3rd WW, somebody is actually extending business ties and so is contributing to the world stability and prosperity.

    Thanks to the blatant MSM propaganda, the West is so deeply brainwashed that they begin to actually believe in their own lies. What is this fear of Russia? What is this demonizing of Putin? He is the great leader of the great country, so rich in natural and human resources.

    Eat your heart out!
  • Andrey Palyura on June 19 2014 said:
    Despite the fact, that eneregy and politics are tied firmly, it is pleasure to read OILPRICE with really more energy sense of articles, than political.

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