MOSCOW: Russia's state oil champion Rosneft on Tuesday clinched a milestone Arctic exploration agreement with the US major ExxonMobil after its $16 billion deal with Britain's BP collapsed earlier this year.
The strategic cooperation agreement's signature was overseen personally by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin Russia's de-facto leader who also gave his personal blessing to the failed BP venture.
The deal will cement the ties of one of the world's largest companies to Russia and grant Rosneft its long-sought access to the North American market.
It should also finally see real funds invested in the development of Russia's Far Northern fields which Rosneft owns but is unable to tap without outside technological assistance.
"Today's event will of course be positively received by the international energy markets because new horizons will be opened," Putin said as he unveiled the deal in the southern city of Sochi.
Television footage showed the accord being signed by Rosneft chief executive Eduard Khudaynatov and ExxonMobil Development Company president Neil Duffin in the presence of a smiling Putin.
"This large-scale partnership represents a significant strategic step by both companies," said ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson.
"This agreement takes our relationship to a new level and will create substantial value for both companies."
ExxonMobil's Russian history dates back to its 1996 involvement in the Sakhalin-1 energy project in the Pacific and has previously navigated rapid changes in Kremlin politics to win lucrative oil deals in the Black Sea.
The US firm said Tuesday's deal will see some $3.2 billion invested in Rosneft's Kara Sea section of the Arctic and Russia's part of the Black Sea.
The two companies said they would also form partnerships to work more closely on global projects and refocus attention on developing Western Siberia's slowly depleting fields.
"This means that ExxonMobil will replace BP," the Vedomosti business daily remarked on its website. Putin for his part said the agreement would also give Rosneft stakes in ExxonMobil projects in the Gulf of Mexico and Texas.
Copyright APP (Associated Press of Pakistan), 2011