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Why Exxon Won’t Have To Pay Fine For Dealing With Rosneft

Exxon won’t have to pay a $3-million fine the U.S. Treasury Department imposed on the supermajor for doing business with Rosneft amid a growing load of U.S. sanctions against Russia.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a federal judge this week ruled against the fine, which followed the imposition of the first round of U.S. sanctions against Russia after its 2014 annexation of Crimea. According to the ruling, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control had failed to give Exxon notice of how it interprets the sanctions, which was a violation of the Fifth Amendment.

The reason for the fine was that the Rosneft official who signed the joint exploration contract with Exxon, chief executive Igor Sechin, was on the sanction list even though Rosneft itself was not.

Exxon quit the project two years ago after its attempts to win a sanction waiver from Washington failed. Even so, the WSJ notes, the supermajor did not quit its legal fight against the fine.

Exxon teamed up with Rosneft on Arctic oil exploration in 2011 and three years later the two announced they had struck oil. At the time, this was the northernmost oil well in the world, with Rosneft’s Sechin expecting the deposit could hold as much as 100 million tons of crude. However, that’s when the Crimea annexation came followed by the sanctions and activity around the Universitetskaya-1 well wound down.

Rosneft is still active in the region, however, with drilling plans in place for more deposits in the Kara Sea where the Universitetskaya-1 well was drilled.

Exxon, meanwhile, remains a partner to the Russian major in the Sakhalin-1 offshore project, which was exempted from sanctions. The two got embroiled in a dispute started by Rosneft, which claimed the Exxon-led consortium operating the project had unjustly enriched itself, but settled in 2018, when the consortium agreed to pay the Russian company $230 million out of court.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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