MOSCOW – Russia’s state-owned Rosneft teamed up with U.S. company Exxon Mobil on Tuesday in a multibillion-dollar deal to develop offshore oil fields in the Russian Arctic – one of the last regions with immense and untapped hydrocarbon deposits – in return for access to resources in the Gulf of Mexico.
Because Rosneft does not have its own technology for deep-sea drilling, it was looking for partners to develop the offshore projects in the Arctic and other regions of Russia. A deal it was pursuing with Britain’s BP earlier this year fell through, leaving the path open for Exxon Mobil.
The oil giant already has experience drilling in the Arctic regions of Canada.
Rosneft spokesman Rustam Kazharov told the Associated Press that the “strategic partnership” with Exxon was signed in the presence of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Exxon Mobil said in a statement that Tuesday’s agreement includes $3.2 billion to be spent on exploring three giant undeveloped oil and gas fields in the Kara Sea – between the northeastern corner of continental Russia and the Arctic archipelago of Novaya Zemlya – in the Arctic as well as a sector in the Black Sea.
The Kara Sea sectors cover some 50,000 square miles between 50 to 200 yards deep and contain some 35.8 billion barrels of oil, Rosneft said. The Black Sea sector covers 4,300 square miles between 1,000 and 2,000 yards deep, it said.
Russia’s top energy official said Rosneft, which is 75 percent owned by the Kremlin, will get shares in at least six Exxon Mobil projects in the United States.
The shares “will be in proportion to the ones Exxon will get by working in the Russian projects,” Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin told the Interfax news agency. “I’d like to emphasize the exclusiveness of these decisions for Russian companies … that until today were not able to develop existing deposits in the U.S.”
Sechin also said that Exxon Mobil could get a share in other projects in the Black Sea. The deal is a blow for Britain’s BP, with which Rosneft struck an accord in January to jointly develop the Arctic fields. That agreement fell through, however, after BP’s Russian shareholders managed to block it.
“The Exxon deal is offering us much more” than BP, Kazharov told the AP.
Putin hailed the deal as “a truly strategic partnership,” the RIA Novosti news agency reported.