The company, the world’s biggest oil producer, intends to invest in regional infrastructure development as part of its expanding activities in Arctic waters. According to sources involved in the process, the company intends to grab a 75 percent stake in the Murmansk Transport Hub, the key infrastructure project in Murmansk Oblast. The shares will be taken over from the SUEK coal company (40%), state owned port development company Rosmorport (15%) and the Murmansk Oblast government (5%), newspaper Vedomosti reports. The oil company from before controls a 15 percent stake in the infrastructure initiative.
With 75 percent of the stakes, Rosneft will be able to develop the project singlehandedly, only in cooperation with the Russian Railways which reportedly will retain its 25 percent stake.
However, the company does not want to commit itself in the project until it has identified the oil resource potential in the Kara Sea. As previously reported, Rosneft will together with ExxonMobil in 2014 drill a first exploration well at the Akademicheskoye structure in the far Arctic area.
The Murmansk Transport Hub project has since it was launched in 2007 topped the agenda of the regional government. The initiative, which includes the construction of a new coal terminal and oil terminal, as well as possibly a container terminal and fertilizer terminal, is to boost regional port capacity with 70 million tons. A total of 152 billion rubles (€3.34 billion) is to be invested in the project, of which 62,7 billion will be provided by the federal government.
The engagement of the oil company in Murmansk comes after major effort from the regional administration to attract its attention. In the course of the year, Governor Marina Kovtun has held several meetings with top company representatives. In June, Kovtun signed two agreements with Rosneft, both of them of key importance for the region’s economic development. “We hope that today, here and now, marks the birth of a new future for Murmansk Oblast,” she said after the signing ceremony with Rosneft President Igor Sechin. “We are getting new perspectives and new partners who will help us make a powerful leap ahead”, she added.
In addition to the Transport Hub, Rosneft is reportedly ready to invest also in the construction of another new oil terminal in the region. The new facility is to be built based on existing objects controlled by Arktimorneftegazrazvedka, the regionally-based oil exploration company controlled by Zarubezhneft. From before, Rosneft operates two oil terminals in the Kola Bay, the floating Belokamenka terminal tanker and a terminal located near naval yard No 35.
Rosneft’s engagement in Murmansk Oblast could be perspective but is unlikely to come easy. The region is strategically well situated for Arctic-related activities, but huge areas are under the strict control of the powerful Northern Fleet. Commenting on prospects for new petroleum bases in the Kola Peninsula, Norwegian expert Johan Petter Barlindhaug says that the Russian military might put a stop to ambitious energy projects in the region. “No country, Russia included, will allow comprehensive shipping with technologically highly advanced oil vessels near their navy bases,” he says to BarentsObserver. According to Barlindhaug, Murmansk should not give priority to the Kola Bay, but rather to the Pechenga Bay, the waters located close to the Norwegian border. “This is the best suited area along the whole Russian coast,” he argues.