Russia lets China in on East Siberia oil production
MOSCOW - Reuters
Russia President Putin (2nd L) visits a refinery of Russian oil giant Rosneft in the Black Sea port of Tuapse in southern Russia Oct. 11. AFP photoRosneft will cede a share of its oil riches to China under a memorandum signed on Friday to jointly develop East Siberia deposits in the first such deal between China's largest oil company and Russia.
The world's top oil producer, Russia has previously preferred to sign long-term supply deals backed by loans with China, the biggest oil importer.
But with net debt of over $57 billion, pressure is growing on Rosneft to partner with Beijing.
The Russian state-owned company said it signed a memorandum with China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) to jointly tap oil reserves.
These include the Srednebotuobinsk field previously owned by oil producer Taas-Yuriakh, which Rosneft recently took over.
Rosneft to have controlling stake
Rosneft would have a controlling stake of 51 percent in the future joint venture, while CNPC will own 49 percent.
"Chinese companies would like to enter upstream projects all over the world, this is a global trend. I think that Rosneft is trying to find ways of such cooperation with CNPC, and the project is just a small proxy," said Alexei Kokin from brokerage Uralsib Capital.
"Rosneft doesn't have endless resources, they understand that they will have to look for Chinese money."
The deposit is close to the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline. Rosneft delivers 300,000 barrels per day of oil to China via an ESPO pipeline spur and earlier this year agreed to double supply volumes.
An official at CNPC, who asked not to be named, said the two companies would likely now start negotiating detailed terms.
"Whether they can sign a solid agreement depends on commercial terms," he said.
Rosneft has a similar deal with another Chinese company, Sinopec, which is producing oil just west of the Urals in the Republic of Udmurtia.
In need of resources
Rosneft, which in March acquired Anglo-Russian oil firm TNK-BP for $55 billion, also needs to increase its upstream base to honour a pledge to increase sales to China.
Some analysts and observers doubt that Rosneft has enough resources to boost supplies to China to the agreed level.
Chief Executive Officer Igor Sechin said on Friday that the company did have sufficient resources to reach its targets.
"The agreements reached prove once again that Rosneft has a sufficient resource base to meet its strategic goals," Sechin said in a statement.
According to Rosneft, the Srednebotuobinsk deposit has oil and gas condensate reserves of more than 134 million tonnes and over 155 billion cubic metres of gas. Oil production from the field started this month.
It is expected to produce 1 million tonnes of oil in 2014 and more than 5 million tonnes annually from 2017.
Last month, energy-hungry China overtook the United States as the world's top net oil importer.
It is on track to spend $500 billion on crude oil imports by 2020, far outstripping U.S. imports which peaked at $335 billion, according to consultancy Wood Mackenzie.
As well as oil, Russia is the world's largest producer of conventional gas and has been seeking a deal to sell natural gas to China.
Despite years of negotiations, however, state-owned Gazprom and Beijing have not yet reached a final agreement due to differences over pricing terms.
Gazprom Chief Executive Alexei Miller said last month that the company and China's CNPC aimed to reach a final supply deal by year-end.