Rosneft’s offshore partnerships: the re-opening of the Russian petroleum frontier?


During an intense period of only 14 months, from June 2010 to August 2011, six major cooperation agreements between oil companies were announced in Russia. Almost all of these partnerships involved offshore projects, with an international oil company as one of the partners and Rosneft as the other.

The agreements were concentrated along Russia's Arctic petroleum frontier, and the three that survived the longest involved oil or gas extraction in the Arctic. This article analyses and compares the contents and contexts of the agreements, to ascertain what they have to tell about access for international companies to Russia's offshore petroleum resources and the influence of competing Russian political actors over the country's petroleum sector.

The article argues that the new partnerships did represent an intention to open up the Russian continental shelf, and that the agreements were driven and shaped by a series of needs: to secure foreign capital and competence, to reduce exploration risk, to lobby for a better tax framework, to show the government that necessary action was being taken to launch exploration activities, to improve Rosneft's image abroad, and either to avert or prepare for future privatisation of state companies such as Rosneft.