By Leslie Palti-Guzman of Eurasia Group and Tatiana Mitrova of the Russian Academy of Sciences
As the global market for natural gas is transformed, Russia and its national champion Gazprom have found their long-term export strategy challenged. No longer able to rely on their core European market, the Russians are looking eastwards, where they have long been seeking a strategic gas deal between Gazprom and the China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) that would provide an easily accessible market for gas from new fields in eastern Siberia.
Rosneft has agreed to allow CNPC to help develop east Siberian oil resources in a move that underscores deepening energy ties between Russia and China. Coming on the eve of an official visit by Dmitry Medvedev to Beijing, the deal provides a positive backdrop for talks about a long delayed contract for Gazprom to supply gas by pipeline to China.
Rosneft and CNPC signed a memorandum on Friday calling for the creation of a joint venture to explore and produce oil in east Siberia. Development of Srednebotuobinsk, a world class oilfield sitting close to the East Siberia Pacific Oil export pipeline (Espo), will serve as the foundation of the future venture, Rosneft said in a statement.
Another strand is playing out in the saga over Kazakh oil and gas: the government in Astana has decided against increasing its stake in the enormous Kashagan oil field as ConocoPhillips exits the project.
None of the other international majors involved appear willing to increase their exposure to what is turning out to be the world’s most expensive oil development, ever. That leaves Kazakhstan to play India and China off against each other for access to Kashagan’s vast oil reserves.
China’s state-owned enterprises this week got a new boss. Former oil chief Jiang Jiemin (pictured), who was president and later chairman of CNPC for the past seven years, will be the new head of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (or Sasac for short).
Jiang’s change of sides, from oil chief to top regulator, follows a long line of top oil bosses who have gone on to prominent political roles. With reform of state-owned enterprises being one a top task facing the new government, the chairmanship of Sasac should be an important – and very political – position.
What price a reputation? Earning a good one takes time. Losing it can take a moment. So some of the biggest companies based in Brazil, Russia, India and China may not be pleased to read a report issued this week by RepRisk, a consultancy that calls itself “the leading provider of business intelligence on environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks”.
So BP is the latest to recognise officially that Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, something that Hugo Chávez has been merrily pointing out for years.
In reality, this has not passed oil companies by – they have been jockeying to get a piece of the action for some time, with the exception of a few (like Exxon Mobil and Conoco Philips) who don’t like Chavez’s way of doing business.
It’s not easy convincing investors that your brand-new country is worth backing. Last July, Riek Machar, South Sudan’s vice president, was in New York to mark his newly-independent country’s admission to the United Nations. As he did so as the oil wealth that provides 98 per cent of state revenue was flowing fast.
Today that oil flow is frozen due to a dispute with its neighbours in Sudan. So to reduce its vulnerability to such troubles Machar has been back to New York to fire up South Sudan’s search for American investment. But did anyone bite?