Exclusive: Russia's Rosneft will not resume drilling in Kara Sea in 2015 - sources

Fri Jan 30, 2015 7:44am EST
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By Denis Pinchuk and Katya Golubkova

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian state-controlled oil company Rosneft (ROSN.MM: Quote) will not be able to resume drilling in the Kara Sea this year after Western sanctions halted its cooperation with ExxonMobil (XOM.N: Quote) in a major setback for Moscow's energy ambitions, two company sources said.

The delay will be a blow to Rosneft, which was spearheading President Vladimir Putin's goal to increase output and secure Russia's energy dominance by exploring the Arctic, where Moscow is believed to have one of the world's largest oil resources.

In September, Rosneft announced it had found oil in the Kara Sea after drilling with Exxon at the Universitetskaya-1 well, the most northerly in the world. Oil resources in the Kara Sea are estimated to be comparable to those of Saudi Arabia.

The company was due to restart drilling this year but Exxon was forced to stop cooperation after the West imposed sanctions on Russia over its actions in the Ukraine crisis.

"There will be no drilling in 2015. There is no platform and it is too late to get one. The project was initially created for Exxon's platform," a Rosneft source said.

The second source confirmed this.

Asked for comment, Rosneft said: "In 2015, Rosneft will ensure implementation of its license obligations related to geological exploration in the Kara Sea."

Usually licenses give companies a certain period of time to complete work. Rosneft did not give the timeframe offered by the license.   Continued...

The logo of Russia's top crude producer Rosneft is seen on a price information board of a gasoline station, with the Ostankino television and radio tower seen in the background, in Moscow July 17, 2014. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin