Russia's aggressive action in Eastern Europe has sent the region's investors scurrying for cover. Some of the world's top energy companies are also now in a delicate situation. As the West continues to place sanctions on Russia and the country's key figures, oil companies like ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) , Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) , Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-B ) , and BP (NYSE: BP ) , all of which have operations within the region, are keeping an eye on events.
The most recent of these sanctions has been placed on Igor Sechin, chairman of Russia's top oil producer, Rosneft. Sechin is also a former KGB official from the inner circle of Russian president Vladimir Putin and is thought to be the second most powerful man in Russia.
This has created a problem, however. Rosneft is working with ExxonMobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP on several major projects, and further sanctions could cause serious repercussions.
ExxonMobil is easily one of the most exposed to Russia, although it would appear that Russia needs ExxonMobil's experience almost as much as Exxon needs Russia's natural resources.
This year, a team of deeptwater oil engineers will start drilling in the Arctic Ocean. The team will be made up of Russians and Americans working for ExxonMobil and Rosneft. The joint venture, formed back during 2014, is worth around $500 billion and is not just limited to the Arctic.
The two companies also plan to frack shale fields within Siberia, drill a well in the Black Sea, and start construction on a natural gas export terminal in eastern Russia. It's reasonable to suggest that ExxonMobil's experience is likely to come in handy for Rosneft as these projects progress.
Chevron is collaborating with ExxonMobil on some of the above projects, but Shell and BP have their own agendas. In fact, Shell holds a stake in Russia's only liquefied natural gas producing plant, and BP owns a 19.75% stake in Rosneft.
BP acquired this share when it divested its stake in TNK-BP, a joint venture between BP and a group of Russian businessmen last year. The company's Rosneft stake now accounts for around a third of BP's total oil output.
Friends in high places
Recent developments in Russia have shown that the country is not run democratically. For BP, Shell, Chevron, and Exxon, this is great news.
Tthese companies are not working with private companies within Russia. In all cases, their main partner is the state-owned and controlled oil company, Rosneft. As president, Vladimir Putin has final say on all oil projects within the country.
This has led to a close relationship between Russia and big oil. Actually, ExxonMobil has such a good relationship with the Russians, last summer President Putin awarded Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson the Order of Friendship during an economic forum in St. Petersburg.
The heads of both BP and Shell have also been on trips to meet and discuss business ventures with Putin directly.
Overall, Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell are all highly exposed to Russia. Any developments within the country are likely to impact the results of these majors. However, all four companies have influence at the highest level within the country. For this reason, their investments are likely to be held in high regard by all parties.
Russia needs the West's experience when it comes to oil extraction technology, and the West needs Russia to help fill the coffers of oil majors who return cash to investors and pay taxes.
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