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Updated Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 01:37 PM

Russia signs deal for stake in Alaska’s natural-gas wealth

By Sean Cockerham
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Russia’s state-owned oil company is poised to play a major role in developing America’s Arctic natural gas under a new agreement to give the company a stake in a huge Alaskan project.

The agreement with Exxon Mobil gives Russian oil company Rosneft the option to buy a 25 percent interest in the Point Thomson field, which is estimated to contain about one-fourth of the storehouse of recoverable natural gas on Alaska’s North Slope.

“Participation in the Point Thomson project will increase Rosneft’s access to the latest gas and condensate field development technologies used in harsh climatic conditions,” Rosneft President Igor Sechin said after signing the deal.

The Alaska deal, signed in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and announced Wednesday, was part of new Arctic partnership agreements between Rosneft and Exxon.

The Russian company could help the chances of a proposed pipeline to get Alaska’s natural gas to market, said Larry Persily, federal coordinator for the Alaska pipeline project.

Rosneft is eager to secure a position in the potentially lucrative North American natural-gas market, he said.

“You’ve got someone who has good reasons to get into this and to get a gas project developed. You want a partner who is eager to get moving,” Persily said. “They’ve got money and they want to spend money.”

Alaska’s Point Thomson field holds an estimated 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. It would be a vital supply for the proposed pipeline from Alaska’s North Slope to markets.

That pipeline, which could cost $65 billion, would run 800 miles from Alaska’s Arctic to an undetermined port in the state’s Southcentral region. The natural gas would be chilled and exported in tankers, with the Asian market the primary target. Prices are higher in Asia than in the United States, which is awash in cheap natural gas because of the domestic shale gas boom.

Exxon, ConocoPhillips, BP and the pipeline company TransCanada say they have a team of more than 200 people working on the Alaska pipeline project. But the long-sought pipeline remains in doubt.

Exxon Vice President Stephen Greenlee said the deal with the Russians showed the “strength of the partnership that exists between Exxon Mobil and Rosneft.”

In addition to the Alaska deal, the agreements give Exxon exploration access to 150 million acres in the Russian Arctic, representing seven offshore prospects.

The companies also agreed to study a potential project to export natural gas in tankers from the Russian Far East.


GENE J. PUSKAR / AP
This Jan. 27, 2011 photo shows an Exxon sign in Carnegie, Pa. Exxon Mobil Corp. said Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, that fourth-quarter earnings rose 6 percent to $9.95 billion with help from higher refining profit margins.




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