Exxon Rig Enters Uncharted Waters of Russian Political Storm

Posted by Joseph Keefe
Monday, July 21, 2014

U.S. sanctions on Russia include Rosneft, Exxon's partner: Project may not break sanctions, but brings political risks.

An ordinary, long-scheduled journey of an oil drilling rig into Arctic waters is turning into a major political exercise, attracting international scrutiny and creating a dilemma for ExxonMobil.

Exxon, the top U.S. oil major and the world's most valued oil company, is bringing the rig, called West Alpha, from Norway to the Russian Arctic. It is hoping for a major discovery in the Kara Sea with Russian partner Rosneft.

The journey has begun just as the United States has slapped the toughest sanctions yet on Russia, including on Rosneft, over escalating violence in Ukraine. Further sanctions are likely after the downing of a Malaysia Airlines' plane in eastern Ukraine.

The joint activity does not necessarily break the latest sanctions, but the rig's mission will be seen a sign that a top U.S. company is backing Moscow.

Arctic exploration costs can exceed hundreds of millions of dollars. The Exxon-Rosneft drilling campaign, therefore, will also show how effective the latest sanctions prove to be in prohibiting U.S. firms from providing new long-term debt or equity to Rosneft.

"It's a bit discordant with the message that the United States government is trying to send, having this long-planned summer drilling season go ahead right now," said Elizabeth Rosenberg, energy program director at the Center for a New American Security think-tank and a former sanctions adviser at the Treasury Department.

From a broader prospective, the project will indicate the resolve of major oil companies to continue dealing with Russia even as conflict escalates with the West.

"We are evaluating the impact of the sanctions and don't have anything further at this time," Exxon said in emailed comments.

For the Kremlin, the project will become a balancing act between achieving its goals of raising oil output and government revenue and the risk of pushing foreign partners so hard that they run up against the sanctions regime.

West Alpha belongs to Norway-listed Seadrill, the world's biggest offshore rig firm, and Exxon has contracted the rig until the third quarter of 2016.

Seadrill Chief Financial Officer Rune Magnus Lundetrae told Reuters the rig had already sailed from the Norwegian yard and was on its way to the Kara Sea.

"She's on her way up now from the yard where she's been preparing for that activity ... Drilling will start within the third quarter. We're in early Q3 now, so we're talking about this quarter," he said.

Lundetrae declined to discuss the latest U.S. sanctions: "We are preparing to drill and will deal with situations as they occur."

Satellite tracking showed the rig was heading towards Russia along the Norwegian coast.

SPILLOVER EFFECTS


The latest U.S. sanctions do not necessarily aim to hit projects between Rosneft and foreign partners.

President Barack Obama said the sanctions were "designed to have maximum impact on Russia while limiting any spillover effects on American companies or those who are allies".

But Obama also warned that additional steps were on the table if Russia does not change course in eastern Ukraine - a signal that joint ventures with U.S. companies could face risks.

By going ahead with drilling, companies risk antagonising the U.S. administration, Rosenberg said.

"You'd be missing the point if you took one drilling season, what is ultimately at this point a pretty limited joint venture activity, and weighed it quite heavily against the president of the United States."

Exxon has shown in the past it can take decisions that do not fully align with U.S. policies.

In one recent example, Exxon's decided to invest in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region two years ago despite, anger from the central government in Baghdad and opposition from Washington.

The West Alpha journey also will be watched by the ecologists, who call for a ban on offshore drilling in the Arctic. Earlier this year, Greenpeace climbers scaled the West Alpha rig.

Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace Norway, could not say whether Greenpeace was planning another protest.

 

By Balazs Koranyi, Gwladys Fouche and Timothy Gardner

Maritime Reporter November 2014 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

People & Company News

Madsen to Chair Norway’s Research Council Executive Board

Henrik O. Madsen appointed chairman of the executive board of the Research Council of Norway   DNV GL president and CEO Henrik O. Madsen was appointed as chairman

Port of Houston Expecting Record Year

The Port of Houston Authority is expecting 2014 to close as a banner year for the port, with 34 million tons of cargo handled through November, Executive Director

Hapag-Lloyd Completes CSAV Merger Capital Increase

Hapag-Lloyd completed the planned capital increase of EUR 370 million (approximately $452.5 million) as part of the business combination with the Chilean shipping

Finance

Larger Tankers May Offer Better Return Chances

Investors looking for returns in the tanker markets can invest their capital in a variety of ways. Should an owner invest in a VLCC or an Aframax? How about an

US Plans to Shut Royalty Loophole on Coal Exports

U.S. coal companies will no longer be able to settle royalties at low domestic prices when they make lucrative sales to Asia according to reforms proposed by the Interior Department on Friday.

Hapag-Lloyd Completes CSAV Merger Capital Increase

Hapag-Lloyd completed the planned capital increase of EUR 370 million (approximately $452.5 million) as part of the business combination with the Chilean shipping

News

Port Workers in Argentine Grain Hub End Strike

Port workers in part of the Argentine grains hub of Rosario lifted a work stoppage on Friday, only a day after they went on strike over demands for higher year-end bonuses, a union official said.

Madsen to Chair Norway’s Research Council Executive Board

Henrik O. Madsen appointed chairman of the executive board of the Research Council of Norway   DNV GL president and CEO Henrik O. Madsen was appointed as chairman

Larger Tankers May Offer Better Return Chances

Investors looking for returns in the tanker markets can invest their capital in a variety of ways. Should an owner invest in a VLCC or an Aframax? How about an

Maritime Safety

NZ Report: Human Error to Blame for Rena Grounding

New Zealand's Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) published its final report into the grounding of containership Rena in October 2011. The TAIC’s

DNV GL Targets Safer Approach to Subsea Lifting

The completion of a joint industry project (JIP) to improve existing standards and regulations around subsea lifting operations has resulted in a new recommended practice (RP).

NOAA: US to See More Floods from Sea Level Rise

Most of U.S. coast may see 30 or more days a year of floods up to 2 feet above high tides. By 2050, a majority of U.S. coastal areas are likely to be threatened

People in the News

Madsen to Chair Norway’s Research Council Executive Board

Henrik O. Madsen appointed chairman of the executive board of the Research Council of Norway   DNV GL president and CEO Henrik O. Madsen was appointed as chairman

Damen Shipyards Galati wins Dutch Romanian Award

Damen Shipyards Galati has been presented with the Dutch Romanian Business Award for its Corporate Social Responsibility plan, particularly the Group’s community investment initiatives.

Lowrance Renews Insight Genesis College Cup

Lowrance®, a world-leading brand in fishing electronics since 1957— announced today the renewal of its Insight Genesis™ College Cup. In its second year, the

Government Update

Madsen to Chair Norway’s Research Council Executive Board

Henrik O. Madsen appointed chairman of the executive board of the Research Council of Norway   DNV GL president and CEO Henrik O. Madsen was appointed as chairman

MARAD Publishes US ATB, ITB Database

The U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) released what it is calling a first-of-its-kind public database that chronicles U.S.-flagged, privately owned domestic

Costa Rica Approves APM Terminals Project

Port operator APM Terminals, a unit of Denmark's A.P. Moller-Maersk, said on Friday Costa Rica's environment agency had approved the construction of its Moin Container Terminal project.

Offshore Energy

DNV GL Targets Safer Approach to Subsea Lifting

The completion of a joint industry project (JIP) to improve existing standards and regulations around subsea lifting operations has resulted in a new recommended practice (RP).

Polarcus Awarded 3D Project Off West Africa

Polarcus Limited has signed a letter of intent with Perenco Oil & Gas Gabon S.A. for a 3D marine seismic acquisition project offshore West Africa.   The project,

Boskalis, VolkerWessels Win Offshore Wind Farm Work

Royal Boskalis Westminster N.V., in partnership with Volker Stevin International (VolkerWessels), has been awarded a contract by Iberdrola Renewables Offshore Deutschland

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Contracts Maritime Security Maritime Standards Naval Architecture Navigation Pipelines Pod Propulsion Ship Repair Shipbuilding / Vessel Construction
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | terms and conditions | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.2310 sec (4 req/sec)