Amid crisis, oilmen move into new Arctic waters

Rosneft and ExxonMobil will continue to cooperate in the Arctic, the companies say.

As dark clouds gather over Rosneft’s international partnerships, the company informs that it is expanding its Kara Sea operations with ExxonMobil.


According to Rosneft, a special aircraft collecting airborn gravity data on Monday started operation over the North Kara license area, one of the most pristine areaes in the energy-rich Kara Sea. The aircraft survey, which is conducted together with ExxonMobil, is part of the first mapping of the area and will be followed by seismic studies, the company informs in a press release.

The North Kara license area is 196,000 square kilometer big and located north of the three Eastern Prinovozemelnye structures, the main focus area for the comprehesive partnership agreement between Rosneft and ExxonMobil.

The press release from Rosneft comes on the same day as the U.S. Congress announced that the powerful Rosneft President Igor Sechin is on the expanded list of people denied entry to the USA. Also, at the same time, Standard and Poor downgrade the Russian company’s rating for foreign currency debt to BBB-, the lowest investment grade.

Mr. Sechin himself does his best to stay unaffected by the sanctions. In a comment, he says that ”I view Washington’s latest steps as a high assessment of the effectiveness of our [Rosneft’s] work and assure our shareholders and partners, including American ones that this effectiveness won’t be reduced and our cooperation won’t suffer but will develop dynamically”, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Also ExxonMobil underlines its continued commitment to the projects. Patrick McGinn, a spokesman for Exxon’s exploration arm, said on April 25 that the company’s Kara Sea project was on schedule, Businessweek reports.

Rosneft and ExxonMobil will this summer drill the Universitetskaya well in the Kara Sea, one of the most expensive drilling operations ever conducted by Exxon. The operation is estimated to cost at least $600 million. According to experts, the structure is large enough to contain more than 9 billion barrels

The Russian-American partnership has hired Seadrill’s West Alfa rig for the operations in a contract which include the period until the second quarter of 2016 with an option to extend the contract into 2017, Alf Ragnar Lovdal, CEO of North Atlantic Drilling Ltd. (NADL), told Businessweek.