MOSCOW Jan 15 Russia's Natural Resources
Minister offered a compromise on Tuesday between state oil
companies fighting to defend their legal right to the country's
Arctic offshore hydrocarbon deposits and private companies
clamouring for new reserves.
Minister Sergei Donskoi told a meeting with the oil
industry, chaired by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, that
non-state oil companies could get access to deposits rejected by
state companies Gazprom and Rosneft.
In return, state companies could have an option on
discoveries by non-state companies, he said.
The core of Russia's onshore conventional reserves is in
decline and the country is hoping that exploration of its
northern seas will reveal new fields to rival Samotlor, the West
Siberian supergiant which helped sustain the Soviet Union
through its final decades.
But those waters are the legal preserve of state companies,
and the state gas export monopoly, Gazprom, and state
oil company Rosneft have bitterly resisted suggestions
by government officials that non-state companies should be
The conflict also reflects a dispute between liberals in the
Medvedev government, who say they favour more competition in the
oil and gas sector, and powerful Rosneft chief executive Igor
Sechin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin.
The Sechin camp argues that only state companies can
shoulder the expense and responsibility of operating in
sensitive offshore zones.
Private companies such as LUKOIL, for their part,
have been driven abroad in search of reserves to compensate for
declining output in Russia. LUKOIL chief Alekperov has been a
vocal lobbyist for non-state access to the Arctic.
The government, keen to stave off declines in oil production
which threaten a key source of revenue to cover heavy social and
military spending in the state budget, also views Arctic
development as a means of attracting investment and technology.
Rosneft has brought in ExxonMobil, Statoil
and ENI as partners in some of its Arctic licence areas
to draw on their experience in other countries.
Both have said they are willing to commit billions of
dollars to offshore development. Alekperov said earlier on
Tuesday that LUKOIL could spend 325 billion roubles on existing
offshore projects alone, including projects in the Russian
sector of the Caspian Sea.
Sechin said Rosneft would spend 1.2 trillion roubles ($39.6
billion) in offshore oil and gas exploration within the coming
"Within the next 10 years we will spend 1.2 trillion roubles
only for exploration works as part of our licencing
obligations," Sechin told reporters when asked about offshore