TNK-BP Starts Oil Production At Siberian Field With Rosneft

TNK-BP on Wednesday started commercial oil production from the Verkhnechonskoye field in eastern Siberia, opening up a new frontier for the country's hydrocarbon production.

Company officials said they expected production at the Verkhnechonskoye field to reach 180,000 tons (3,600 barrels per day) this year, rising next year to 1.3 million tons.

Peak production for the field is likely to be "between 7 million and 10 million tons per year," said Sergei Brezitsky, TNK-BP vice president for upstream.

"It is the resources of east Siberia that will allow Rosneft to keep its leading place in the industry," Kudryashov said in a statement.

Verkhnechonskoye is operated by VerkhnechonskNefteGaz, in which TNK-BP owns 68 percent and Rosneft owns 26 percent.

Rosneft first vice president Sergei Kudryashov said Wednesday that the company has not ruled out increasing its stake in the operator, Interfax reported.

"We are a company that is capable of finding compromises, therefore I think we will certainly fund a resolution to this issue that suits everyone," he said in regard to an 11 percent stake in the operator that is being disputed by Rosneft and TNK-BP.

Under a 2007 agreement, the two firms were to purchase the stake on an equal basis.

Crude from the field will initially flow southwest through the pipeline to the Angarsk refinery owned by Rosneft because the eastern stretch of the pipeline to the Pacific is not yet ready.

Summers said TNK-BP had already spent about $1 billion in developing Verkhnechonskoye and would likely invest another $4 billion during the field's life.

Rosneft may delay projects should the global financial crisis worsen, Kudryashov said, Interfax reported.

The oil producer could postpone projects "that don't affect income,'' he said without giving details.

(Reuters, MT)