(Adds details on sanctions, Russian assets)
By Ernest Scheyder
NEW YORK, May 1 (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp. said on Thursday that expansion projects planned in Russia for this year are proceeding normally, even amidst recent sanctions imposed against the country for its involvement in Ukraine.
Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest publicly traded energy company, plans to comply with all sanctions the United States and European Union have imposed against Russia, David Rosenthal, the U.S. company’s head of investor relations, said on a conference call with investors and analysts.
Those sanctions led Russian President Vladimir Putin to muse on Tuesday whether he should reconsider the participation of Western companies, including oil and natural gas producers, in Russia’s economy.
Yet so far work on projects, including some of the most complex oil exploration endeavors in the world, is “underway and proceeding as planned,” Rosenthal said.
The comments came a day after Royal Dutch Shell said it would not pursue new Russian projects in the near future due to the Ukrainian situation.
Exxon is the most deeply involved in Russia of the U.S. majors.
With Kremlin-controlled Rosneft, along with Japanese and Indian partners, Exxon is the operator of Sakhalin-1, a massive oil field off Russia’s eastern coast and one of three Russian production-sharing deals with foreign companies.
Many energy and geopolitical risk analysts don’t think Putin would confiscate the assets of foreign energy companies inside Russia, pointing to the harm caused to the Venezuelan, Argentine and Iranian economies when those countries expropriated oil or natural gas fields in the past.
“I’d be surprised if controlling half of the Ukraine was worth more than long-established relationships with Western energy companies,” said Victoria Brudenell of the Salamanca Group risk consultancy in London.
Exxon held 85,000 acres in Sakhalin at the end of 2013, all offshore, and also held about 11.3 million acres in separate Rosneft joint venture agreements for fields in the Kara Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean, and the Black Sea.
Rosneft and Exxon also have a joint venture to evaluate the development of tight-oil reserves in western Siberia, and are building a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant on Russia’s eastern coast.
The plant, which Exxon executives have repeatedly said will not be deterred by the Ukrainian political situation, is expected to be online by 2019.
In the United States, Rosneft unit Neftegaz in March 2013 bought a 30 percent stake in 20 deepwater exploration blocks held by Exxon in the Gulf of Mexico. (Additional reporting by Terry Wade in Houston; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)