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Rosneft and LUKoil in Running for Kharyaga

The government has begun looking for a Russian investor that would buy a total of 20 percent in the Arctic Kharyaga oil and gas field from France's Total and Norway's Hydro, a senior Cabinet official said.

Total operates the project under a production sharing agreement that stipulates an option for a Russian company to buy 10 percent from both of the foreign participants. The government approved LUKoil as a potential buyer in 2001, but the deal never happened.

The government sent letters to several oil companies at the end of January offering them the stake, Deputy Industry and Energy Minister Andrei Dementiev said, Kommersant reported Tuesday. He did not name all of the companies, saying only that one of the letters went to LUKoil. The ministry's spokesman had no further comment Tuesday.

LUKoil has not made a decision on whether it wants a stake in Kharyaga, said Dmitry Dolgov, a company spokesman. LUKoil head of investor relations Gennady Krasovsky said in London last month that the state would transfer the option to a state company.

State-run Rosneft also received the letter and is "studying the situation," spokesman Nikolai Manvelov said.

Total and Hydro are aware of the government's plans to involve another Russian partner in the project, spokespeople from both companies said from France and Norway respectively, declining further comment. Total holds 50 percent and Hydro 40 percent in Kharyaga, a field in the Yamadnenets autonomous district. The Yamadnenets Oil Company, controlled by the regional administration, owns the remaining 10 percent.

Rosneft is only one of the prime candidates to join the project, said Caius Rapanu, senior energy analyst at UralSib. Alfa Bank, in a note to investors, said Rosneft's prospects of wrangling its way into the project were not clear. LUKoil may be another prospective partner if it wins government support for developing the pipelines to ship oil from the field, said Nadezhda Kazakova, an oil and gas analyst at MDM Bank.

The project has come under criticism for not producing enough oil and gas from the field. Total has said it is impossible to increase production because there is not enough pipeline capacity to transport more oil to the market.

The government is currently reviewing the license to the field, but last week it gave Total approval to spend $146.5 million there. The Industry and Energy Ministry demanded that the company present a new development plan for the field this quarter that would include plans for using the gas extracted with the crude oil.

The state's participation in Kharyaga is the smallest among the country's three projects based on production sharing agreements. Gazprom last year reached a deal to buy a stake of 50 percent plus one share in Sakhalin-2, and Rosneft holds 20 percent in Sakhalin-1.

The Yamadnenets autonomous district is home to Rosneft and LUKoil fields. In the 2005 gubernatorial elections, former LUKoil executive Alexei Barinov beat a rival with a Rosneft background, only to be removed from the post over fraud charges the following year. President Vladimir Putin appointed former KGB officer Valery Potapenko as the region's governor in Barinov's place.


(The Moscow Times 21.ii.07)

 
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