* Western oil majors sticking with Russia projects
* If foreign firms quit, others will take their place -
(Updates with fresh quotes, background, changes dateline)
By Denis Dyomkin
BIROBIDZHAN, Russia, April 24 Russia warned
foreign companies working in the oil and gas sector that if they
quit the country over Ukraine-related sanctions, they would not
be able to return any time soon.
Natural Resources Minister Sergei Donskoy said on Thursday
that foreign firms had not so far signalled they would withdraw
from projects in Russia, the world's top crude oil producer, but
that there would be a price to pay if they did.
"It is obvious that they won't return in the near future if
they sever investment agreements with us, I mean there are
consequences as well," Sergei Donskoy told reporters in the city
of Birobidzhan in Russia's Far East.
"Russia is one of the most promising countries in terms of
hydrocarbons production. If some contracts are severed here,
then, colleagues, you loose a serious lump of your future pie."
Russia's oil and gas industry depends on foreign investment
and technology, especially in projects involving hard-to-recover
The United States and the European Union have imposed visa
bans and asset freezes on a few Russian individuals in protest
at Russia's annexation last month of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.
However, they have warned that harsher sanctions, affecting
key sectors of the Russian economy could be imposed in days
unless Russia implements the terms of an international agreement
signed last week intended to defuse the Ukraine crisis.
Moscow has accused Ukraine of failing to implement the
Geneva deal and has warned that it may cut gas deliveries to
Ukraine over an unpaid bill. Russia supplies about a third of
European gas demand, half of it through Ukraine.
Capital outflows from the country have surged as
international tensions have worsened and investors have moved
their money out of Russia.
Central bank data released earlier this month showed an
estimated $63.7 billion in net capital outflows in the first
three months of the year, the same as for the whole of 2013. The
World Bank has said this year's total could reach $150 billion.
The surge coincides with an overall slump in investment and
a sharp deterioration in business confidence, as forecasters
slash economic growth forecasts.
Nevertheless, Donskoy said Western oil majors BP and
Royal Dutch Shell were sticking with their projects in
BP owns a 19.75 percent stake in Kremlin-controlled energy
giant Rosneft, which accounts for about a third of
BP's oil output.
BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley visited Moscow earlier this
month and said the company was "rock solid" with its Rosneft
investment and that it was "business as usual".
A few days later, Shell Chief Executive Ben van Beurden also
came to Moscow and told President Vladimir Putin the company was
committed to expansion in Russia.
Shell already has an oil-producing project with Gazprom Neft
, Gazprom's oil arm, and has started to tap
hard-to-recover oil in Russia.
Van Beurden confirmed that Shell had agreed with Gazprom to
expand the Sakhalin-2 liquefied natural gas plant which produces
10 million tonnes of LNG per year.
Russia has signed deals with other international majors
including ExxonMobil, Eni and Statoil,
mainly relating to projects in the Arctic.
Donskoy said that if companies did decide to "diversify
their investments" and pull out of Russian deals, "I am sure
others wishing to take their places would be found".
Gazprom, with more than 15 percent of global gas
production and reserves, is expected to sign a deal next month
to begin exporting gas to China from 2018.
Such a deal would mark the end of a decade of talks and some
analysts say the pace has picked up partly in response to
concerns that the threat of sanctions is spurring Europe to
reduce its dependence on Russian energy.
(Reporting by Denis Dyomkin; Writing by Nigel Stephenson;
editing by Anna Willard)