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Lukoil pushes for access to shelf

Lukoil has extensive offshore experiences from the Caspian Sea, but has so far not been allowed access to the Arctic. Photo: Lukoil.ru

Russia’s biggest private oil company challenges Rosneft’s monopoly position in Arctic waters.

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Lukoil is ready to invest up to 2.9 billion USD in the exploration of four Arctic fields and is lobbying Russian authorities for license rights. The four fields, Severo-Vrangelevskoye, Trofimoskoye, Mininskoye and Vostochno-Sibirskoye in the Laptev Sea and East Siberian Sea respectively, would give Lukoil a long-desired access to the Arctic shelf.

Also the Zarubezhneft, a state-owned company, is currently fighting hard for Arctic licenses. According to newspaper Vedomosti, the company wants three fields in the Pechora Sea, Laptev Sea and Chukotka Sea respectively.

However, both companies face tough opposition from Rosneft and Gazprom, the two state-controlled energy giants, which currently have a monopoly position on the shelf. Current Russian legislation reserves the right to operate offshore fields to companies owned at least 50 percent by the state and having at a minimum of five years of offshore experience. That regulation might however soon be softened.

As previously reported, a proposal from the Ministry of Natural Resources includes the opening up for private, as well as foreign, companies to engage in extensive shelf exploration. In cases of oil and gas discoveries, the companies will have the right to keep 49 percent of the license, while a state company will get the remaining 51 controlling stake.

In a government meeting this fall, Premier Dmitry Medvedev ordered his deputy Arkady Dvorkovich to elaborate a new and updated shelf policy. The policy, which will lay the foundation for much of future activities in the Arctic, is due to be presented in mid-December this year. 

The controversy over the Russian shelf regime brings to the surface a conflicting relationship between opposing camps in the Russian elite. While Rosneft and Gazprom fight for the right to keep status quo on the shelf, the government headed by Dmitry Medvedev calls for liberalization. As previously reported, in recent rare meeting between Rosneft leader Igor Sechin and Gazprom head Aleksei Miller, the two companies joint forces in a bid to dissuade the government to change the rules of the game. The two powerful men subsequently wrote a joint letter to Dmitry Medvedev where the reportedly warned against letting other companies get access to the shelf.