In a dramatic stroke of luck for the Kremlin, this morning there is hardly a person in the world who is happier than Russian president Vladimir Putin because overnight state-run run OAO Rosneft announced it has discovered what may be a treasure trove of black oil, one which could boost Russia’s coffers by hundreds of billions if not more, when a vast pool of crude was discovered in the Kara Sea region of the Arctic Ocean, showing the region has the potential to become one of the world’s most important crude-producing areas, arguably bigger than the Gulf Of Mexico. The announcement was made by Igor Sechin, Rosneft’s chief executive officer, who spent two days sailing on a Russian research ship to the drilling rig where the find was unveiled today.
Well, one person who may have been as happy as Putin is the CEO of Exxon Mobil, since the well was discovered with the help of America’s biggest energy company (and second largest by market cap after AAPL). Then again, maybe not: as Bloomberg explains “the well was drilled before the Oct. 10 deadline Exxon was granted by the U.S. government under sanctions barring American companies from working in Russia’s Arctic offshore. Rosneft and Exxon won’t be able to do more drilling, putting the exploration and development of the area on hold despite the find announced today.”
Which means instead of generating billions in E&P revenue, XOM could end up with, well, nothing. And that would be quite a shock to the US company because the unveiled Arctic field may hold about 1 billion barrels of oil and similar geology nearby means the surrounding area may hold more than the U.S. part of the Gulf or Mexico, he said.
For a sense of how big the spoils are we go to another piece by Bloomberg, which tells us that “Universitetskaya, the geological structure being drilled, is the size of the city of Moscow and large enough to contain more than 9 billion barrels, a trove worth more than $900 billion at today’s prices.”
The only way to reach the prospect is a four-day voyage from Murmansk, the largest city north of the Arctic circle. Everything will have to shipped in — workers, supplies, equipment — for a few months of drilling, then evacuated before winter renders the sea icebound. Even in the short Arctic summer, a flotilla is needed to keep drifting ice from the rig.
Sadly, said bonanza may be non-recourse to Exxon after Obama made it quite clear that all western companies will have to wind down operations in Russia or else feel the wrath of the DOJ against sanctions breakers. Which leaves XOM two options: ignore Obama’s orders (something which many have been doing of late), or throw in the towel on what may be the largest oil discovery in years.
And while the Exxon C-suite contemplates its choices, here is some more on today’s finding from Bloomberg:
“It exceeded our expectations,” Sechin said in an interview. This discovery is of “exceptional significance in showing the presence of hydrocarbons in the Arctic.”
The development of Arctic oil reserves, an undertaking that will cost hundreds of billions of dollars and take decades, is one of Putin’s grandest ambitions. As Russia’s existing fields in Siberia run dry, the country needs to develop new reserves as it vies with the U.S. to be the world’s largest oil and gas producer.
Output from the Kara Sea field could begin within five to seven years, Sechin said, adding the field discovered today would be named “Victory.”
The Kara Sea well — the most expensive in Russian history — targeted a subsea structure named Universitetskaya and its success has been seen as pivotal to that strategy. The start of drilling, which reached a depth of more than 2,000 meters (6,500 feet), was marked with a ceremony involving Putin and Sechin.
The importance of Arctic drilling was one reason that offshore oil exploration was included in the most recent round of U.S. sanctions. Exxon and Rosneft have a venture to explore millions of acres of the Arctic Ocean.
But what’s worse for Exxon is that now that the hard work is done, Rosneft may not need its Western partner much longer:
“Once the well is plugged, there will be a lot of work to do in interpreting the results and this is probably something that Rosneft can do,” Julian Lee, an oil strategist at Bloomberg First Word in London, said before today’s announcement. “Both parties are probably hoping that by the time they are ready to start the next well the sanctions will have been lifted.”
And here is why there is nothing Exxon would like more than to put all the western sanctions against Moscow in the rearview mirror: “The stakes are high for Exxon, whose $408 billion market valuation makes it the world’s largest energy producer. Russia represents the second-biggest exploration prospect worldwide. The Irving, Texas-based company holds drilling rights across 11.4 million acres in Russia, only eclipsed by its 15.1 million U.S. acres.”
Proving just how major this finding is, and how it may have tipped the balance of power that much more in Russia’s favor is the emergence of paid experts, desperate to talk down the relevance of the Russian discovery:
More drilling and geological analysis will be needed before a reliable estimate can be tallied for the size of the oil resources in the Universitetskaya area and the Russian Arctic as a whole, said Frances Hudson, a global thematic strategist who helps manage $305 billion at Standard Life Investments Ltd. in Edinburgh. Sanctions forbidding U.S. and European cooperation with Russian entities mean that country’s nascent Arctic exploration will be stillborn because Rosneft and its state-controlled sister companies don’t know how to drill in cold offshore conditions alone, she said.
“Extrapolating from a small data sample is perhaps not going to give you the best information,” Hudson said in a telephone interview. “And because of sanctions, it looks like there’s going to be less exploration rather than more.” In addition, the expense and difficulty of operating in such a remote part of the world, where hazards include icebergs and sub-zero temperatures, mean that the developing discoveries may not be economic at today’s oil prices.
Maybe. Then again perhaps the experts’ time is better suited to estimating just how much longer the US shale miracle has left before the US is once again at the mercy of offshore sellers of crude.
In any event one country is sure to have a big smile on its face: China, since today’s finding simply means that as Russia has to ultimately sell the final product to someone, that someone will almost certainly be the Middle Kingdom, which if the “Holy Gas Grail” deal is any indication, will be done at whatever terms Beijing chooses.
April 29, 2014
The Ministry of Finance (MoF) on President Putin’s order yesterday accelerated the opening of the St. Petersburg Exchange (SPE), where prices for Russian oil and natural gas will be set in rubles instead of US dollars.
Putin’s order regarding the SPE was in direct response to the US placing sanctions yesterday upon Igor Sechin the CEO of the Russian energy giant Rosneft and a nominated board member of the SPE, and of which Deputy Minister for foreign relations, Sergey Ryabkov, had warned: “A response of Moscow will follow, and it will be painfully felt in Washington DC.”
Sechin, was directly threatened by the Obama regime earlier this month due to his October 2013 remarks at the World Energy Congress in Korea where he called for a “global mechanism to trade natural gas” and went on suggesting that “it was advisable to create an international exchange for the participating countries, where transactions could be registered with the use of regional currencies”.
Sechin, as one of the most influential leaders of the global energy trading community now has the perfect instrument to make this plan a reality with the SPE where reference prices for Russian oil and natural gas will be set in rubles instead of US dollars and could literally destroy the petrodollar.
As we reported earlier already Russia and India are planning to remove the Dollar, meanwhile many speculators believe that the Yuan may already have become a de facto reserve currency. Also to be noted is the epic $30 Billion Oil Pipeline undertaken by Russia, India, China that could shift the Geopolitical balance.
The use of this “Financial Nuclear Weapon” (the sale of oil in a currency other than the US dollar) which was previously deployed by Saddam Hussein, resulted in the total destruction of Iraq, but it failed to deter other countries angry with the highhandedness of the US.
Libya made another attempt and it resulted in the destruction of the country and the brutal murder of its leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Next was Iran. The US and the global financial war party found it much more difficult to isolate and annihilate Iran, even when it was threatened with outright nuclear attack by US and Israel. And in spite of unprecedented sanctions against Iran (which constitute economic warfare and are war crimes in itself), Iran stood defiant.
The leading members of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Russia and China restrained themselves so as to preserve global stability.
However, the war party faction of the US took such restraint as weakness and went on a spree of regime change throughout the world to undermine the growing strength of BRICS.
The “straw that broke the camels’ back” was the unbridled and reckless coup against the elected President of Ukraine by US and NATO and orchestrated by the US State Department and led by the war-monger Victoria Nuland, who openly admitted that the US had disbursed through such organizations as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) over $5 Billion to facilitate the coup. Further to this just a couple of days back as reported by Bodhita US backed elite ‘Rape-Murder’ Alpha Squads were captured in Ukraine.
Critical to understand about the current Ukrainian Crisis, is that it has “absolutely nothing” at all to do with either Ukraine or its people, but should be understood for what it really is…a “sledgehammer” the US is attempting to use against Russia to prevent the opening and expansion of the SPE.
By perpetually expanding the US money supply, it’s important to note, America’s standard of living for its elite classes increases as well. The only problem with this situation is that the only way that it can be sustained is if the demand for the dollar and for US debt securities remains consistently strong.
Grasping this last point is extremely important. For if the artificial global US dollar demand, made possible by the petrodollar system, were ever to crumble, foreign nations who had formerly found it beneficial to hold US dollars would suddenly find that they no longer needed the massive amounts that they were holding.
This massive amount of dollars, which would no longer be useful to foreign nations, would come rushing back to their place of origin… America.
Obviously, an influx of dollars into the American economy would lead to massive inflationary pressures within their economic system and collapse it, along with that of the EU too.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of this concept as the entire American monetary system literally hinges on this “dollars for oil” system. Without it, Washington would lose its permission slip to print excessive numbers of dollars.
With thousands of NATO-backed Romanian troops now moving to the Ukraine border, along with British and French fighter jets now being deployed to Lithuania and Poland to join their recently arrived US military allies, it cannot be ruled out that the US will attempt to start a war with Russia in order to protect their petrodollar scheme.
In spite of the fact that all Russian military forces have returned to their permanent bases and Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu assured his US counterpart Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel yesterday during an hour long phone conversation that Russia had no intention of invading Ukraine, Moscow has become increasingly “alarmed” by the combined US-NATO military buildup on its borders that Minister Shoigu called “unprecedented”.
As for the Ukrainian people themselves being used as pawns by the US against Russia in this “petrodollar war”, their lives are quickly turning from despair to outright misery as they are forced to swallow the “bitter pill” being forced upon them by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which is forcing their fuel and energy costs to skyrocket and taxes being raised on everything from alcohol to tobacco, not to mention the tens-of-thousands of public jobs being made redundant (layoffs and firings) and the nearly 5% cut in payments to pensioners.
Even worse for these “US Pawns”, wages now in Ukraine are, as a rule, not enough to feed a family, and the devaluation of their currency will make it totally impossible for these people to absorb these costs.
On the other hand, Western currency speculators will be able to profit from fluctuations in Ukraine’s currency and multinational corporations stand to benefit from privatization of those state assets that haven’t already been sold off.
It is critically important to note that back in 2008, when the US brought the world to the very brink of total economic collapse, then Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that Russia should seize opportunities created by the weak US dollar. “Today, the global economy is going through uneasy times,” he said. “The role of the key reserve currencies is under review. And we must take advantage of it.”
Six years later that is what Putin is doing…nobody can say that they weren’t warned.
Neftegaz America Shelf LP (Neftegaz), an indirect independent subsidiary of Russia’s state-run oil company Rosneft, has acquired 30 percent interest in 20 deepwater exploration blocks in the Gulf of Mexico held by ExxonMobil, under an agreement signed by the two companies.
The 20 blocks have a total area of approximately 111,600 acres (450 square kilometers) in water depths ranging between 2,100 and 6,800 feet (640 and 2,070 meters). Seventeen are located in the Western Gulf of Mexico and three are in the Central Gulf of Mexico.
ExxonMobil retains 70 percent interest in the blocks and remains operator. Analysis of seismic data is under way. There is currently no production on the blocks.
Rosneft and ExxonMobil continue to implement the Strategic Cooperation Agreement signed in 2011, under which the companies and their subsidiaries plan to undertake joint exploration and development of hydrocarbon resources in Russia and other countries and to share technology and expertise. Under subsequent agreements between Neftegaz and ExxonMobil, Rosneft’s subsidiary gained the option to acquire interest in 20 blocks of its choosing from among ExxonMobil’s Gulf of Mexico exploration portfolio. The latest agreement represents the exercise of that option.
The agreement was signed by Igor I. Sechin, president of Rosneft, and Stephen M. Greenlee, president of ExxonMobil Exploration Company.
“ExxonMobil has a long history of safe oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico using state-of-the-art safety and environmental protection systems,” said Greenlee. “We look forward to working with Rosneft and its affiliates to explore these blocks using our leading-edge exploration and development technology and deepwater execution expertise.”
Sechin said, “This agreement provides Rosneft and its affiliates with access to one of the world’s most prolific basins. We believe joint efforts of our companies will ensure the most efficient development of these blocks, with application of the latest technologies and adhering to high environmental standards. Moreover, experience and knowledge acquired in the process may potentially be used when developing deepwater blocks in Russia, including in the Tuapse Trough in the Black Sea as envisaged under the Strategic Cooperation Agreement.”
ExxonMobil and Rosneft continue to implement a program of staff exchanges for technical and management employees to help strengthen the working relationships between the companies and provide valuable career development opportunities for employees of both companies.
The 20 blocks are:
Western Gulf of Mexico – Alaminos Canyon 569, 612, 613, 655, 656, 657, 698, 699, 700 and 701; East Breaks 429, 471, 472, 473 and 515; Keathley Canyon 529 and 573.
Central Gulf of Mexico – Walker Ridge 629, 673 and 717.
NEW YORK – Russian energy Czar Igor Sechin said Wednesday that U.S.-Russia economic relations still don’t reflect their full potential, but that opportunities to tap Russia’s massive oil reserves will provide opportunities for that to change.
At an event in New York describing details of Exxon Mobil Corp.‘s deal with OAO Rosneft, Sechin, who is Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, said that “the time has come in Russia-U.S. relations for a step-up in the level of practical and real projects.”
The partnership between Exxon and Rosneft could give the companies access to about 90 billion barrels of oil equivalent in estimated resources from the Arctic Ocean and the Black Sea, Rosneft said Wednesday.
In a video presented to analysts in New York, Rosneft said that the partnership would drill its first wells at the Kara Sea in the Arctic Ocean as early as 2014-2015, with a final investment decision on full-scale development expected by 2016-2017. Sechin said that Kara Sea production is estimated to begin around 2027.
The Exxon-Rosneft deal comes in the wake of the Russian government’s efforts to step up the development of new oil production regions, especially in the Arctic. Sechin said that about 5% of oil output to come from new regions by 2020, and up to 40% by 2030.
“We recognize that the implementation of such projects will require strong and consistent support of the state,” which aims to ensure transparent terms of access to the new fields, Sechin said.
Sechin said that under new rules, tax rates were defined for different types of operational conditions. Exxon-Rosneft projects in the Kara Sea will have a royalty of 5%. Royalty levels for deepwater projects in the Black Sea will be 10%, Sechin said.
Long-term investment in offshore development is estimated to exceed $500 billion, Sechin added, creating more than 300,000 jobs.
Overall, the large scale investments needed to tap Russia’s massive oil and gas wealth provides an “enormous potential for U.S.-Russia cooperation, which ought to help us to overcome our over-politicized relationship,” he said.
Such large projects “will be welcomed and will find strong support of the Russian government,” Sechin said.
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The company, half-owned by BP and Russian billionaires, said in a statement Wednesday that up to $10 billion will be spent on building infrastructure at the fields and a pipeline that will link them with the export pipeline.
Russian oil companies have been drawing up plans to move to the oil and gas-rich Arctic as mature fields in Western Siberia are getting depleted.