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Funds prop for oil hunt in Russia

New Delhi, Dec. 24: India is set to invest in oil and gas assets in Russia’s far east and the Arctic region from a newly formed $2-billion fund.

The State Bank of India today inked a deal with the $10-billion Russian sovereign wealth fund (RDIF) to set up the fund that will invest in Indian and Russian ventures.

Top officials said one of the first beneficiaries of the deal, signed on the sidelines of President Vladimir Putin’s visit to New Delhi, would be ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL).

OVL has already been offered two blocks — Magadan 2 and Magadan 3 — situated in the Okhotsk sea off Siberia and facing Japan’s Hokkaido island.

OVL is studying the offer and may become the fund’s first client, said officials.

India is also keen to tie up with Russia in exploring oil and gas in the Arctic region. Analysts estimate that nearly 60 per cent of all hydrocarbons found under the world’s oceans are in the Arctic. This has brought global players such as Gazprom, Rozneft, Shell, Total, Statoil and BP into the hunt.

Officials said OVL would be holding talks with Rosneft for an Arctic expedition. If Russia agrees, OVL could get a basin to explore as part of a consortium. Foreign explorers will have rights up to 33 per cent of the produce and obligation to fund the whole exploration.

Officials pointed out that “the Arctic shelf lying under the Kara Sea is really an extension of the West Siberian Basin, the world’s largest oil and gas basin.” Geologists estimate this sea to have reserves of 2.5 billion barrels of oil and 622 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

India has oil and gasfield shares in Sakhalin in Siberia, which is transported through the South China Sea, an area where China is pitted against Asean nations over territorial rights. New oil and gas holdings in Siberia or the Arctic would increase the movement of Indian oil tankers through this region.

The new fund will invest in projects not only in Russia but also in India, officials said.

“Basically, we are creating this platform that has capital allocated for high return projects in interesting sectors, with synergy between India and Russia,” said RDIF’s chief executive officer Kirill Dmitriev. Officials added that one of the key sectors to be targeted would be oil and gas.

Russia’s Gazprom is in talks with Indian Oil Corporation to acquire a stake in the 5-million-tonne-per-annum liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal planned at Ennore near Chennai.

Till now, most investments by Russia in India were made through a rupee debt fund that the Soviet Union had built by selling arms to India under creditlines through the 1960s till it was dissolved in 1991. With increased Russian investment in India, this fund is getting depleted. New projects may use the SBI-RIDF fund.

 
 
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