The Arctic Scientific Center planned to be set up by the Russian Rosneft oil giant jointly with the US ExxonMobil Corporation will become sort of a technological core for developing the region’s ice shelf. Pursuant to the strategic partnership agreement signed earlier, the Russian and American companies will have 66.7 and 33.3 percent interests respectively in the future joint venture.
The new scientific center is meant to study the climate and geology of the Arctic, engineer icebreakers and drilling platforms, as well as engage in all shelf cooperation-related projects.
The region faces serious yearlong development, given an estimated one third of the world’s natural resources originating from the Arctic Ocean floor. The shelf is especially rich in coal, gold, copper, nickel, tin, platinum and manganese, with the region’s hydrocarbon fields holding up to 30 and 13 percent of global gas and oil reserves.
It is clear that one company cannot cover the development of all these deposits single-handedly, which requires cooperation with foreign specialists. According to partner of the RusEnergy consulting company Mikhail Krutikhin, the project has an essential economic aspect:
"ExxonMobil possesses enough shelf exploration technology and experience; it cooperated with Russia on the Sakhalin-1 project. Any opportunity to get access to new deposits and develop them appears more than attractive for any international company of this class," says Mikhail Krutikhin.
One should realize, however, that exploration efforts on the Russian shelf will also require a specific approach, stresses oil investment expert Dmitry Alexandrov:
"In general, no one can be deemed highly experienced in carrying out geologic exploration under such conditions, given that the Russian Arctic differs much from what we observe in Alaska. Russia finds it particularly important to cooperate with a large foreign company in order to adopt its knowledge of shelf activities. We are dealing with the shared financial risks on the one hand and high-level technological solutions on the other," Dmitry Alexandrov points out.
One should also bear in mind that the Arctic is a region attractive for all oil giants, the expert adds:
"The shelf’s resource base arouses interest of many foreign companies. Giants like ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips and Statoil have insufficient resource bases and always seek to engage in high-potential projects," Dmitry Alexandrov says in conclusion.
The Arctic center is expected to absorb some $500 or 600 million, with overall Rosneft and ExxonMobil investment estimated at $200-300 billion. The total economic impact may reach half a billion dollars.
Partnership between the Russian and American giants is not only limited to Arctic projects. ExxonMobil may take part in exploring an area of the so-called Tuapse Trough in the Black Sea, while Rosneft is likely to get access to oil deposits in the Gulf of Mexico, Texas and Canada.