New US sanctions can be disastrous for Russian energy companies

The industry is afraid of damage to investment projects worth billions of dollars.
On Wednesday, August 2, US President Donald Trump signed a law on new sanctions against Russia, which became a response to the alleged interference of Russia in the election of the US president. The law, in particular, prohibits the provision of "goods, services, technology, information and support" for the construction and "modernization and repair" of Russian export pipelines. Sanctions "can become a disaster," said the Financial Times (FT), one of the leaders of a large Western oil company operating in Russia: "It disrupts the whole work."

The new sanctions create risks around the main pipeline projects of Gazprom - Nord Stream-2 (partners are Uniper, Shell, Engie, OMV and Wintershall) and the Turkish Stream. Pipelines should be built by the end of 2019, when the contract with Ukraine expires, and delay in the implementation of projects could weaken the negotiating position of Gazprom with the country that transits Russian gas to Europe, Reuters says. In July, Gazprom warned investors that US sanctions could cause a delay in investments in a number of projects. Wintershall and Uniper spoke out in defense of Russian gas supplies to Europe, which accounts for about a third of the market, reports Reuters.

The purpose of the new US sanctions is also the pipeline system of Transneft. But its president Nikolai Tokarev said on Thursday that the new sanctions will not affect the company's business. "The fact is that we purchase and use our 94% domestic equipment," he explained. Tokarev also added: "We do not finance, we do not lend money, we have enough of our capabilities" (quotes from Interfax).

Privatization risks

While discussing the question of privatization of Sovcomflot, one must take into account the current foreign policy situation, but the tightening of the sanctions regime on the part of the United States hardly improves the investment attractiveness of this asset in international financial markets, said Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov.

Other projects of foreign energy companies may suffer. The new US sanctions may affect the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (pumping in 2016 - 44.3 million tons). On it, oil flows to the Black Sea from the Tengiz field in Kazakhstan. Last year, Chevron and ExxonMobil agreed to invest $ 37 billion in the increase in production at this field.

BP believes that sanctions will not have a significant impact on its business, the FT notes. The British company owns a 20% stake in Rosneft, but it has no shares in the companies providing infrastructure for the transportation of oil and gas.

"Rosneft itself will look for an opportunity to work in such a way as to minimize the consequences of new US sanctions for the company," Igor Sechin, the chief executive of the Russian oil company, said on Thursday. "The consequences are positive and there are negative consequences. The negative ones are already beginning to work against American partners. And you will soon learn the positive ones - within the next four weeks, "he said (his words are quoted by Interfax).

Perhaps, energy companies will have to rely on the fact that the White House will make an exception for them individually and will allow the continuation of some projects, the FT notes. And the wording of one of the articles of the law, that the imposition of sanctions requires consultation with the "allies", gives hope that the damage will be limited. Earlier, EU, German and Austrian politicians criticized the new US sanctions for the damage they do to the interests of their countries' businesses. Against the sanction was the Association of European Businesses, which includes foreign companies operating in Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union. Trump himself stated that the law has "serious shortcomings".