Statoil, Rosneft Delay Russian Drilling Amid Ukraine Tension

Statoil ASA (STL) has delayed a drilling campaign with OAO Rosneft (ROSN), Russia’s biggest oil company, whose chief executive officer is the target of new U.S. sanctions as tensions rise over Ukraine.

The two companies, which signed an agreement in 2012 to explore offshore and onshore blocks, postponed the start of a pilot project on a heavy-oil discovery in North Komsomolskoye in West Siberia to next year from this summer, said Knut Rostad, a spokesman for the state-controlled Norwegian company. While the decision was made “recently,” it was due to operational factors only and isn’t related to the tension over Ukraine, he said.

“Weather conditions in the region affect the possibility to advance our planning efforts,” he said in a phone interview. “Among other things, winter roads have made it impossible to bring in rigs like we had hoped.”

The U.S. today expanded sanctions against Russian individuals and companies, after the mayor of Ukraine’s second-largest city was shot and following the seizure of international military inspectors by pro-Russian separatists last week. The U.S. list now includes Rosneft’s CEO Igor Sechin, and could be followed by tighter sanctions from the European Union.

Statoil’s Rostad spoke before the U.S. announced its new sanctions. He didn’t immediately respond to a call from Bloomberg seeking a comment on the tighter sanctions.

“We are actively monitoring the situation but we do not want to speculate in potential new sanctions,” he said earlier. “We will ensure full compliance with all relevant sanctions.”

Statoil’s Rostad declined to comment on when exactly the decision was made.

Lars Christian Bacher, the company’s head of international development and production said in an interview with Reuters as late as April 14 that the first of three wells would be drilled this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mikael Holter in Oslo at mholter2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net Jonas Bergman, Alastair Reed

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