ConocoPhillips

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. 

ConocoPhillips is in the middle of a long-standing streamlining programme, so there was little surprise on Monday when it announced the disposal of a chunky $5.5bn asset – its stake in Kazakhstan’s vast Kashagan field.

But the buyer’s name came as a shock. Given the enthusiasm of president Nursultan Nazarbayev (pictured) for Kazakhs to own more of the country’s mineral wealth, it had been expected that ConocoPhilips might sell to a Kazakh state group – for example, KazMunaiGas, the energy company, which expressed an interest only last month. Instead the purchaser is ONGC, the Indian state oil group. 

Another big foreign oil deal in Russia. State-controlled Rosneft and Italy’s Eni announced on Wednesday a pact for offshore exploration in the Russian Arctic and the Black Sea.

Prime minister Vladimir Putin blessed the deal – Rosneft’s second big partnership this month, following last week’s accord with ExxonMobil. At the same time, Moscow has relaxed the tax regime governing the huge projects critical to its future as an energy producer. After many false starts, could it be that Russia is finally serious about working with foreign investors?