Russia signs deal for stake in Alaska’s natural gas wealth

McClatchy NewspapersFebruary 13, 2013 

US NEWS ENV-ARCTIC MCT

The melting of the Arctic Ocean ice

MIKE DUNN — MCT/NC State Museum of Natural Sciences/NOAA

— Russia’s state-owned oil company is poised to play a major role in developing America’s Arctic natural gas under a new agreement to give the company a stake in a huge Alaskan project.

The agreement with Exxon Mobil gives the Russian oil giant Rosneft the option to buy a 25 percent interest in the Point Thomson field, which is estimated to contain about a fourth of the massive storehouse of recoverable natural gas on Alaska’s North Slope.

“Participation in the Point Thomson project will increase Rosneft’s access to the latest gas and condensate field development technologies used in harsh climatic conditions,” Rosneft President Igor Sechin said in a statement after signing the deal.

The Alaska deal, signed in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was part of new Arctic partnership agreements between Rosneft and Exxon.

The Russian company could help the chances of a proposed pipeline to get Alaska’s natural gas to market, said Larry Persily, federal coordinator for the Alaska pipeline project.

Rosneft is eager to secure a position in the potentially lucrative North American natural gas market, he said.

“You’ve got someone who has good reasons to get into this and to get a gas project developed. You want a partner who is eager to get moving,” Persily said. “They’ve got money and they want to spend money.”

Alaska’s Point Thomson field holds an estimated 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. It would be a vital supply for the proposed pipeline from Alaska’s North Slope to markets.

That pipeline, which could cost $65 billion, would run 800 miles from Alaska’s Arctic to an undetermined port in the state’s Southcentral region. The natural gas would be chilled and exported in tankers, with the Asian market the primary target. Prices are higher in Asia than in the United States, which is awash in cheap natural gas because of the domestic shale gas boom.

Exxon, ConocoPhillips, BP and the pipeline company TransCanada Corp. say they have a team of more than 200 people working on the Alaska pipeline project. But the long-sought pipeline remains highly in doubt.

Exxon Vice President Stephen Greenlee said the deal with the Russians showed the “strength of the partnership that exists between Exxon Mobil and Rosneft.”

In addition to the Alaska deal, the agreements give Exxon exploration access to 150 million acres in the Russian Arctic, representing seven offshore prospects.

The companies also agreed to study a potential project to export natural gas in tankers from the Russian Far East.

Email: scockerham@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @seancockerham

McClatchy Washington Bureau is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service