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Rosneft takes Alaska natural gas field stake in Exxon Mobil-brokered deal

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch
ExxonMobile facility at Point Thomson Business Wire photo

Exxon Mobil Corp. and Rosneft have reached an agreement that could yield a 25 percent stake for the Russian state-owned oil company in Alaska's lucrative Point Thomson oil-and-gas field, as part of a larger ongoing Arctic cooperation effort between the two companies.

According to Exxon Mobil, the option for Rosneft to acquire an interest in the Point Thomson unit came along with an agreement allowing the Texas oil company to explore 600,000 acres of land in the Russian Arctic, along with increasing operations in the Russian east to include possible LNG. The companies had previously agreed to cooperate on offshore development in Russia's Black and Kara seas, as well as other possible projects in the U.S. and Canada, and it appears Point Thomson may now be falling under that umbrella.

Point Thomson was recently cleared for development following a lengthy legal battle between the state of Alaska and Exxon Mobil over a decades-long lack of development at the field, considered the largest undeveloped oil-and-gas field on the North Slope. The field is estimated to hold a potential 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas -- an estimated quarter of the total known reserves in the region -- as well as hundreds of millions of barrels of oil.

The terms of the agreement reached between the state, Exxon Mobil and other Point Thomson stakeholders in spring 2012 mandated that natural gas production from the field begin by spring 2016, or the state could begin to take back leases. The state began looking at revoking leases at Point Thomson under then-Gov. Frank Murkowski in 2005 after the lengthy failure to develop the site, which led to the long dispute in the courts.

The project began moving along after the agreement was reached, with the Army Corps of Engineers issuing a critical permit in October 2012 that would allow Exxon to build some of the infrastructure needed to begin extracting hydrocarbons from the field. 

Point Thomson could be worth upwards of $100 billion if the estimated quantities of oil and gas in the field prove true.