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2014-09-23 18:20:00

RUSSIA SANCTIONS: TOTAL LOOKS FOR $27 BLN

RUSSIA SANCTIONS: TOTAL LOOKS FOR $27 BLN

Total SA said it was seeking nondollar financing for a gas project in Russia, becoming the second energy company in several days to indicate that Western sanctions on the Kremlin are affecting expansion plans. 

Exxon Mobil Corp. on Friday said it would stop drilling in the Russian Arctic.

Major oil companies have played down the impact of sanctions on assets that are already producing oil and gas in Russia. But the comments from France's Total and U.S.-based Exxon show how projects that are key to growth are affected.

Exxon said it had obtained permission from the U.S. government to go beyond the Sept. 26 deadline to safely wind down drilling of the company's first well in the Kara Sea. The company declined to say how long the process would take. Exxon in 2011 formed an exploration joint venture with state-owned OAO Rosneft that the companies estimate will cost at least $3.2 billion.

Total Chief Financial Officer Patrick de la Chevardière said Monday that the company was looking to finance its share in the $27 billion Yamal liquefied-natural-gas project in euros, Chinese yuan and Russian rubles. "The effect of U.S. sanctions was that Yamal LNG will be prevented from raising any dollar financing," Mr. de la Chevardière said at a London news briefing.

Total is developing the Yamal project onshore in the Russian Arctic with independent Russian gas producer OAO Novatek and China National Petroleum Corp.

The sanctions were designed to punish Russia for its aggression in Ukraine. U.S. officials have said the penalties could be lifted if there is evidence that the Kremlin was complying with the terms of a cease-fire signed this month.

But if the measures persist, the sanctions could imperil Exxon's venture with Rosneft—one of the U.S. company's biggest opportunities to find new supplies of oil and gas.

Total, meanwhile, is relying on the Yamal project, which is expected to start up in 2017, to provide a big chunk of the company's production growth. Yamal is estimated to hold proven reserves of 800 million barrels of oil equivalent.

U.S. and European Union sanctions include financing limits on some banks and energy companies and restrictions on technology transfers and equipment to develop offshore Arctic oil and onshore shale oil. The latest round of sanctions added to asset freezes and travel bans on dozens of Russian officials and executives, including one of Novatek's biggest shareholders— Gennady Timchenko.

Yamal is a complex project requiring Western technology that Russia lacks, such as the liquefaction plant that will supercool natural gas into liquid so it can be transported in tankers. The project has managed to proceed despite the sanctions because the companies involved have been able to pursue other avenues for financing.

Russia relies on oil and gas to provide the bulk of the country's revenue, and Yamal is vital to the Kremlin's plans to increase the country's share in the fast-growing global LNG market.

wsj.com

Tags: RUSSIA, SANCTIONS, LUKOIL, TOTAL, EXXON, ROSNEFT, NOVATEK, LNG, GAS

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