US oil giant ExxonMobil and Russia’s Rosneft will continue joint exploitation of the Russian Arctic despite Western sanctions, the American company said as the two giants launched exploration drilling in the Kara Sea.
“Our cooperation is a long-term one. We see great benefits here and are ready to continue working here with your agreement,” Glenn Waller, ExxonMobil’s lead manager in Russia, told President Vladimir Putin during a videoconference call.
The Russian leader hailed the exploration project as an example of mutually beneficial cooperation that strengthens global energy security.
Rosneft head Igor Sechin said the launch of the Universitetskaya-1 well drill is one of the most important events for the company this year.
“We hope that this work will discover a new oil reserve here in the Kara Sea. The development of the Arctic shelf would have a big and positive effect for the Russian economy,” he said.
Optimistic company forecasts put oil reserves in the Kara Sea as high as 13 billion tons, more than in the Gulf of Mexico, or the whole of Saudi Arabia.
The drilling is being done by the West Alpha oilrig, built by Norway’s North Atlantic Drilling. It has a deadweight of 30,700 tons and can drill wells in the shelf up to 7 km deep.
The rig was equipped with an advanced iceberg warning system, which tracks potentially dangerous icebergs, giving enough time for either support ships to tow them away, or for the rig itself to seal off the well and evacuate to safety.
Rosneft is one of the Russian companies targeted by Western nations, imposed to punish Moscow for its stance over the Ukrainian crisis. Russia’s retaliation so far has been to ban the import of foodstuffs from the countries that approved anti-Russian sanctions.
US lawmakers are already threatening Russia with economic sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine. Trade, business, investment, and G8 membership closely link the Russian, American and European economies.
While the West is considering going down the ‘sanction road’, here’s a look at what’s at stake for the markets.
In terms of billions of dollars, trade is higher between Russia and the EU, but the US remains Europe’s biggest export market.
Net trade between Russia and the US was $38.1 billion in 2013, according to US Chamber of Commerce data. The US exported $11.26 billion to Russia, and imported $26.96 billion worth of goods.
Russia exports more than $19 billion of oil and petroleum products to the United States, as well as $1 billion in fertilizer products, according to Chamber of Commerce data.
“Is Russia going to be cut off from the world? That is very unlikely given what Russia provides to the world, which are oil, gas, raw materials,” Alexis Rodzianko, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia told Reuters.
Russia is very dependent on trade with the EU, as member states account for about 50 percent of total Russian imports and exports. In 2012, trade between the two neighbors reached €123 billion.
One of Russia’s most valuable exports to Europe is something factories and households run on every day: natural gas. Europe imports one-third of its natural gas from Russia, with Germany being the biggest client importing nearly 30 billion euro annually. In 2012, 75 percent of all European imports from Russia were energy.
Many countries in Europe have strategic partnerships with Russia’s state-owned gas giants, Rosneft and Gazprom.
According to Eurostat data, Russia accounts for 7 percent of total imports and 12 percent of total exports in the 28 European Union bloc, making it the regions third most important trading partner, behind the USA and China.
US companies with big Russia presence
Several of America’ biggest companies- Boeing, Cargill, Ford, General Motors, ExxonMobil, to name a few- all have a huge presence in the Russian market.
Boeing’s investment in Russia is deep, as the aerospace carrier sources a considerable amount of steel, titanium, and aircraft parts from Russian companies. Boeing receives about 35 percent of its titanium from state-owned, Rostec. In 2013, Boeing’s deliveries to Russian carriers were valued at $2.1 billion, and the company plans to spend $27 billion in Russia, Bloomberg reports.
“We are watching developments closely to determine what impact, if any, there may be to our ongoing business and partnerships in the region,” Doug Alder, a spokesman for Chicago-based Boeing, told Bloomberg by email.
Last year, Russia was a $11.2 billion market for the US, with heavy trade in automobiles and aircrafts, according to Commerce Department data.
US automakers have a high exposure to Russian markets, so are closely watching US economic actions against Russia. Ford has sold over 1 million automobiles in Russia, and in 2013, sold 105,000 cars. GM, which has a 9 percent market share, sold 258,000. Both companies have shifted production plants from Europe to Russia, which is set to become Europe’s biggest car market by 2016.
ExxonMobil has partnered with Rosneft in exploring the Bazhenov oil field in Western Siberia, a deal that could be worth up to $500 billion. ExxonMobil is planning to build a $15 billion LNG terminal project in the Bazhenov field, and also has joint venture projects set up to explore Black Sea reserves.
Senator Chris Murphy, chairman of the Senate’s subcommittee on Europe, said the sanctions could be extended to Russia’s banks. Russia’s two largest state banks are Sberbank, Europe’s third largest, and VTB. Both banks have a strong industry presence in London, which has indicated it isn’t moving towards the sanctions. A leaked document from Downing Street shows that the UK government doesn’t plan to follow America-led asset freezes or trade restrictions, but are mulling over visa restrictions and travel bans on key Russian politicians.
Rosneft has announced joint ventures with ExxonMobil in Iraq, and with a Venezuelan national oil company. According to CEO the expansion will double the company’s share of the Russian gas market.
Igor Sechin told reporters on Tuesday that the company is considering teaming up with veteran business partner ExxonMobil in Iraq.
“We will work with anyone who offers good terms, we’ll work with ExxonMobil too,” Reuters reported Sechin as saying.
An Iraqi oil ministry delegation will arrive in Moscow on May 10 to further discuss the deal.
Since Sechin became CEO, Russia’s largest producer of oil Rosneft, has upped its game against state-controlled rival Gazprom which currently controls 70% of Russian gas exports.
His first big step was acquiring the Anglo-Russian company TNK-BP from BP for $55 billion on March 21 2013, which will give it an Arctic niche.
Sechin aims to chip away at the Gazprom monopoly, and to double Rosneft’s domestic gas market by 2020, from 9% to 19-22%, plans made clear at an investor meeting in London on Tuesday.
“We like to work with gas very much,” Sechin said at the meeting. “The domestic market is also attractive, and it suits us well.”
Sechin predicts the new mega company may reach a market capitalization of $120 billion in the next two years, which would trump Gazprom’s estimated value of $73-90 billion.
According to the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, by 2013 Russia will even outperform its pre-crisis levels of 2008.
Rosneft expects to produce more than 40 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas in 2013, over 60 by 2016 and 100 bcm in 2020, half of which will be produced in new projects.
The company is also on Gazprom’s heels in LNG development, as both companies are looking to expand their influence, particularly in exports to China.
Just hours after the Iraq announcement, Venezuela’s government trumpeted a joint venture with Rosneft and PDVSA, the national oil company that dominates the Venezuelan market.
Rosneft will get a 40% share and the preliminary license is set for 25 years, and subject to extension.
The Venezuelan project will develop 342 kilometers in the Orinoco River basin, one of the richest oil reserves in the world, with an estimated 86.4 billion barrels, according to RIA Novosti.
Russian companies are involved in 5 oil projects in Venezuela, the world’s fifth largest oil exporter.
Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez has estimated the joint Russian-Venezuelan projects will be worth close to $50 billion by 2019.
Here we go again. A sudden surge in the price of gasoline and heating oil is followed by reported expressions of frustrated despair by hard-pressed consumers in the midst of silence from the oil companies and abdication of responsibility by the elected and appointed officials of federal and state governments.
The price of gasoline is up by about 50 cents in the past month, according to AAA, making the average gallon go for close to $4 per gallon in many parts of the country. Prices are even higher in California. AAA says that this “is the most expensive we’ve seen gasoline in the dead of winter.”
Every penny increase in the annual price of gasoline takes over $1.6 billion dollars from the pockets of American consumers (Source). That doesn’t even count the higher prices for heating oil homeowners are paying.
There was a time when even a few cents increase in the price of gasoline or natural gas would provoke Congressional investigations, actions by state Attorneys General, and condemnations of the producer countries, the OPEC cartel and Big Oil from presidents and the heads of antitrust divisions of the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission. That is, until smooth, smiling Ronald Reagan came to Washington, D.C. with his mantra that “government is not the solution; government is the problem.”
Well, now the multi-layered petroleum cartel has become institutionalized, having “gotten government off its back” and they’ve put the New York Mercantile Exchange speculators at the gaming tables.
There seems to be an adequate supply of crude oil in this recessionary global economy. What could be the cause of this latest price spike? The news media offer a spectrum of possible factors – restrictions on exports of Iranian oil imposed by western governments, instability in Syria and elsewhere in the volatile Middle East, oil hungry China, oil speculators on Wall Street and reduced refinery capacity in the U.S.
Each price surge in recent decades seems to have different principal causes. This time it seems to have been precipitated by surging prices of crude – easily manipulated – and in the U.S. the permanent or temporary shutdown for repairs, of too many refineries.
Believe it or not, the U.S. is now a net refined petroleum importer because of the continuing refusal by the industry to rebuild or expand refinery capacity on the very sites where many refineries have been shut down, often in favor of offshore, cheaper installations.
Whenever supply and demand for refined oil products is tight, all it takes is for one or two refineries to suspend operations, other than for repairs, and the prices surge all over the country.
This happened in January to a refinery in California, due to a fire, and more prominently the closure of a key refinery in Port Reading, New Jersey, owned by the Hess company. Five dollars a gallon gas “is a real possibility,” John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital, told Yahoo! Finance, adding “this is partly being driven by the lost refinery capacity of about one million barrels per day…that’s a lot.” (The U.S. consumes about 19 million barrels a day of refined petroleum products.)
So what can our so-called representatives in Washington do about a gouge that has angered almost all conservative and liberal consumers? Well, the Democratically-controlled Senate can start by holding investigatory hearings. The President can speak out more forcefully and indicate he may release some of the government’s crude oil reserves to increase supply.
He can order his Justice Department to at the very least subpoena pertinent oil industry information for starters.
Mr. Obama can forcefully back up Gary Gensler, his appointed, savvy Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, who has been trying to rein in excessive speculation that drives up prices and punishes the motoring public.
In 2011 CFTC data showed that massive inflows of speculative money drove up prices. At that time, even Goldman Sachs analyst, David Greely, claimed Wall Street speculation in the futures market was driving up oil prices. Earlier, Rex Tillerson, the head of ExxonMobil, estimated that speculation was responsible for a more than $40 per barrel price increase when oil was just over $100 per barrel. Over the last month crude oil has ranged in price from $93-$120 per barrel.
Admiral Hyman Rickover who, more than 40 years ago, wisely said that there should always be government-owned shipyards to provide a yardstick by which to restrain the high prices and cost overruns being charged by private ship buildings manufacturing the Navy’s ships. That means, in this oil price context, that the government should own and operate some refineries for the armed forces. Any excess capacity could loosen the market with gasoline and heating oil when the corporate interests maneuver tight supplies for which they get immediately rewarded with cold cash.
Were Obama to direct some of his bully pulpit heat on those members of Congress who are marinated in oil, he might find more support from Capitol Hill for all these initiatives.
So call the switchboard at the White House comment line (202-456-1111) and tell the president that you are fed up and determined to drive less, carpool and walk more where possible, but that he, the president, must be more aggressive in taking on the staggeringly profitable and tax-favored big oil companies.
The Russian oil producer Lukoil has turned down an offer from the Iraqi government to replace Exxon Mobil at the West Qurna-1 field in Iraq.
The development of a large-scale project such as West Qurna 1 would bring additional risks to the company, which is already developing the West Qurna 2 project in Iraq, which requires up to $5bn investment, said Andrey Kuzyaev, head of Lukoil Overseas.
Earlier this year Baghdad considered inviting Russia’s Lukoil and Gazprom Neft – both already operating a number of projects in the country, instead of Exxon Mobil to develop the West Qurna-1. Iraqi authorities were angered by ExxonMobil’s deal signed with the Kurdistan regional government , sources in the industry told RT.
In 2010 Exxon and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan regional government signed a number of deals to develop six blocks in West Qurna without Baghdad’s approval. Outraged by the move the Iraqi authorities threatened the American company with sanctions.
Later ExxonMobil told the Iraqi government it wants to give up the $50 billion project of West Qurna-1. Iraq expects Exxon to complete the sale of its shares in West Qurna-1 by the end of the year.
Meanwhile CNPC unit Petrochina and several other companies such as British BP and Italy’s ENI have been reportedly negotiating for Exxon’s 60% stake in order to develop West Qurna-1 in partnership with Royal Dutch Shell, according to Iraqi sources
Currently Lukoil holds a dominant 75% stake in the West Qurna-2 oil field. It is developing the oil deposits in partnership with Iraqi state-run North Oil Company since Norway’s Statoil left the project.
The West Qurna field is believed to hold about 43 billion barrels, making it the second largest oil field in the world after Ghawar in Saudi Arabia.
Venezuela’s opposition accused the government on Wednesday of turning a blind eye to neighbouring Guyana’s oil exploration in a border region claimed by Venezuela, potentially inflaming a territorial dispute that dates back more than a century.
The conflict was stirred up in recent days by local media reports that Exxon Mobil Corp, in partnership with Royal Dutch Shell, is exploring for crude off the coast of the disputed Essequibo region.
The two South American neighbours squabbled over the area, which is the size of the US State of Georgia, for much of the 20th century. Venezuela calls it a “reclamation zone,” but in practice it functions as Guyanese territory.
”(We) firmly reject the concessions granted by the Guyana government in Venezuela’s Atlantic waters,“ the opposition’s Democratic Unity coalition said in a statement, slamming the government’s stance as ”weak“.
”In the face of the activation of the concessions in the area, the government of President Hugo Chavez should address the issue immediately.“
An Exxon spokesman said in an email it and Shell ”have had an active exploration license offshore Guyana for several years, and we have obtained multiple seismic data sets in the area.”
Oil companies have shown growing interest in the north-eastern shoulder of South America, with industry experts describing a recent discovery off nearby French Guyana as a game-changer for the region’s energy prospects. Local media reported that Guyana halted exploration of the offshore block called Stabroek in 2000 following a protest by Venezuela.
The dispute over the region known as the Essequibo resurfaced last year when Guyana asked the United Nations to extend its continental shelf – the area where countries control ocean resources – toward a region where Venezuela has granted natural gas concessions.
The much smaller and poorer Guyana still relies on imports for its energy needs and has invited companies including Spain’s Repsol to drill for oil in other offshore areas not affected by the dispute.
The Essequibo, an area of rolling savannah and isolated jungle, shows little sign of Venezuelan presence. Many Guyanese see it as a crucial to their economic future due to its reserves of minerals including gold, diamonds and bauxite.
Chavez has taken a conciliatory stance in the dispute, striking up a friendship with former Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo and selling fuel to Guyana on advantageous terms under the Petrocaribe energy initiative.