Statoil to drill with Rosneft on Russian shelf

Sat May 5, 2012 3:46pm EDT
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By Melissa Akin and Vladimir Soldatkin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Norway's Statoil (STL.OL: Quote) will drill in Russian Arctic waters thought to contain 2 billion metric tons (2.20 billion tons) of oil (ROSN.MM: Quote) in partnership with Rosneft, marking the third deal of its kind for the Russian state company.

The agreement, signed on Saturday, provided a showcase for president-elect Vladimir Putin, serving out his final days as prime minister before a May 7 inauguration, and Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, in charge of energy and industrial policy.

As a legacy of their time in government, the three deals secure capital and expertise for a push into some of the world's potentially most energy-rich regions.

Rosneft President Eduard Khudainatov said Statoil in turn invited his firm to partner up and bid in Norway's coming licensing rounds.

That offers an entry ticket to one of the world's most developed offshore oil and gas sectors, aiding the government's goal of building its top companies into respected global players.

Output from Russia's Soviet-era oil provinces is declining and the country faces high costs and technological challenges at remote new fields to retain its status as the world's top crude oil producer.

For Sechin, viewed as likely to relinquish a formal cabinet post when Putin returns to the Kremlin, the deals strengthen his political clout and secure his dominance over Russia's energy industry.

Statoil will be a minority partner with Rosneft in the latest venture, which is modeled on deals struck in the last month with U.S. oil major ExxonMobil (XOM.N: Quote) and Italian oil firm Eni (ENI.MI: Quote).   Continued...

Russian Prime Minister and President-elect Vladimir Putin (C) looks on as Statoil's Chief Executive Helge Lund (L) and Rosneft President Eduard Khudainatov exchange documents during a signing ceremony at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow May 5, 2012. REUTERS/Yana Lapikova/RIA Novosti/Pool