ExxonMobil seeks U.S. waiver to resume Rosneft JV: report

U.S. supermajor ExxonMobil has reportedly applied to the U.S. Treasury Department for a waiver from sanctions on Russia, seeking to resume its joint venture with state-oil firm Rosneft.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday the company renewed a push for approval in March to drill with Rosneft in several areas blocked by sanctions. Citing people familiar with the matter, the report added the company originally applied for a waiver to gain access to the Black Sea in July 2015, but it’s application wasn’t approved.

Under leadership of then CEO Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil forged a close working relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Rosneft. Tillerson, now U.S. Secretary of State, is said to be recusing himself from any matters involving ExxonMobil for two years. He won’t be involved with any decision made by any government agency involving ExxonMobil during this period, a State Department spokesman said.

“Exxon is arguing that it deserves a waiver there because under its deal with Rosneft, its exploration rights in the Black Sea will expire if it doesn’t act, and because some of its top foreign competitors aren’t similarly restricted,” the Journal reported.

The sanctions affecting Rosneft, which were imposed on Russia over the Crimea annexation, ban U.S. companies from deals in the Artic, Siberia and the Black Sea, Kallanish Energy notes. These are areas that require the sharing of cutting-edge drilling techniques.

Tillerson highlighted in June 2012 the Western Siberia area presents a good opportunity for ExxonMobil and Rosneft cooperation. “This agreement combines the strengths of our two companies. ExxonMobil has technology leadership in tight oil and unconventional reserves development, and Rosneft brings direct knowledge and experience of Western Siberia’s geology and conventional production,” he said then.

The waiver request is likely to be scrutinized by the U.S. Congress, which is seeking to intensify sanctions on Russia in response to allegations of cyberattacks in last year’s elections, and is investigating President Trump’s ties with Russia.