US oil giant ExxonMobil and Russia’s Rosneft will continue joint exploitation of the Russian Arctic despite Western sanctions, the American company said as the two giants launched exploration drilling in the Kara Sea.
"Our cooperation is a long-term one. We see great benefits here and are ready to continue working here with your agreement,” Glenn Waller, ExxonMobil's lead manager in Russia, told President Vladimir Putin during a videoconference call.
The Russian leader hailed the exploration project as an example of mutually beneficial cooperation that strengthens global energy security.
Rosneft head Igor Sechin said the launch of the Universitetskaya-1 well drill is one of the most important events for the company this year.
“We hope that this work will discover a new oil reserve here in the Kara Sea. The development of the Arctic shelf would have a big and positive effect for the Russian economy,” he said.
Sechin compared the resource base of the project to that of Saudi Arabia.
"This project will give Russia a new perspective and will ensure energy security for the whole world. Comparing this project with others in the world from the resource stand point, we can confidently say that it is comparable with the largest resources, such as in Saudi Arabia, and significantly exceeds the capabilities of offshore supply in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska and Canada," he told reporters on Saturday.
Sechin added that he is confident in the project. "At the moment there is no project that is implemented at such latitudes, but at the same time, we are confident in our success, we have good partners,” he said.
ExxonMobil Russia chief Glen Waller confirmed the strong partnership between the companies. “Ours is a long-term partnership and we see great prospects here, we are ready to continue our work,” he said.
Optimistic company forecasts put oil reserves in the Kara Sea as high as 13 billion tons, more than in the Gulf of Mexico, or the whole of Saudi Arabia.
The drilling is being done by the West Alpha oilrig, built by Norway’s North Atlantic Drilling. It has a deadweight of 30,700 tons and can drill wells in the shelf up to 7 km deep.
The rig was equipped with an advanced iceberg warning system, which tracks potentially dangerous icebergs, giving enough time for either support ships to tow them away, or for the rig itself to seal off the well and evacuate to safety.
Rosneft is one of the Russian companies targeted by Western nations, imposed to punish Moscow for its stance over the Ukrainian crisis. Russia’s retaliation so far has been to ban the import of foodstuffs from the countries that approved anti-Russian sanctions.