- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 30, 2011

MOSCOW — Russia’s state-owned oil company Rosneft teamed up with the U.S. corporation ExxonMobil on Tuesday in a multibillion-dollar deal to develop offshore oil fields in the Russian Arctic — one of the last regions with immense and untapped hydrocarbon deposits — in return for access to resources in the Gulf of Mexico.

Because Rosneft does not have its own technology for deep-sea drilling, it was looking for partners to develop the offshore projects in the Arctic and other regions of Russia. A deal it was pursuing with Britain’s BP earlier this year fell through, leaving the path open for ExxonMobil.

The oil giant already has experience drilling in the Arctic regions of Canada.

Rosneft spokesman Rustam Kazharov told the Associated Press that the “strategic partnership” with Exxon was signed in the presence of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. He was unable to name the plots where Rosneft will work in the Gulf of Mexico and Texas.

ExxonMobil said in a statement that Tuesday’s agreement includes $3.2 billion to be spent on exploring three giant undeveloped oil and gas fields in the Kara Sea — between the northeastern corner of continental Russia and the Arctic archipelago of Novaya Zemlya — in the Arctic as well as a sector in the Black Sea.

The Kara Sea sectors cover about 50,000 square miles between 50 to 200 yards deep and contain about 35.8 billion barrels of oil, Rosneft said. The Black Sea sector covers 4,300 square miles between 1,000 and 2,000 yards deep, it said.

Russia’s top energy official said Rosneft, which is 75 percent owned by the Kremlin, will get shares in at least six ExxonMobil projects in the United States.

The shares “will be in proportion to the ones Exxon will get by working in the Russian projects,” Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin told the Interfax news agency. “I’d like to emphasize the exclusiveness of these decisions for Russian companies … that until today were not able to develop existing deposits in the U.S.”

Mr. Sechin also said ExxonMobil could get a share in other projects in the Black Sea. “If the Tuapse [field] yields results, Exxon will become a natural partner for our additional capabilities in the Black Sea,” he was quoted by Interfax as saying.

Rex W. Tillerson, ExxonMobil’s chief executive, attended the ceremony and said in the statement that the deal “takes our relationship to a new level and will create substantial value for both companies.”

ExxonMobil and Rosneft first struck a deal in January to develop a sector in the Russian part of the Black Sea.

Mr. Putin lauded Exxon for its extensive experience in drilling in the Arctic region in Canada.

Tuesday’s signing ceremony was preceded by talks between Rosneft executives and ExxonMobil top brass, including President Neil W. Duffin.

Mr. Putin hailed the deal as “a truly strategic partnership,” the RIA Novosti news agency reported. The prime minister estimated the total investment in the project at a massive $500 billion, a figure he described as “scary,” over an unspecified number of years.

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