Energy Blast – July 21, 2008

A new law signed by the State Duma will reportedly empower the government to “hand-pick companies” to develop the vast oil reserves thought to be in the Arctic shelf. TNK-BP chief Robert Dudley has been barred from working in Russia, and will not be granted a work visa unless he can present a “valid contract”. Dudley’s contract ran out last year, and AAR shareholders deny that it has been automatically extended. “We have no proof that it has been prolonged,” the migration service said. It is alleged that Viktor Vekselberg had urged the migration service not to renew the visa. BP meanwhile has hired Vladimir Putin’s former legal advisers to assist them in the ongoing battle, and maintains that Dudley “has a valid employment contract”. Mikhail Fridman says, “I don’t think this conflict is bad for Russia’s image. It’s important to send the right message to foreign investors. Russia welcomes foreign investment but only that which helps Russian companies to grow.” He also claims that Dudley refused to do business with nations hostile to the US, including Cuba. The Moscow Times accuses BP of having blocked a $1.8 billion dividend to the joint venture, but the decision was reportedly backed by AAR. “Oil companies enjoy approximately the same public approval rating as drug dealers and arms traders.” Gazprom will buy a 25% stake in gas transport firm DalTransGas from Rosneft. Transneft is optimistic about its new board of independent directors. Senior Democratic senators in the US are trying to pass a new bill to limit the stakes speculators can take in the oil and gas markets.