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    Oil Companies: The Search for Unconventional Sources Goes Into the Arctic

    The black gold rush on the roof of the world accelerated on Saturday.

    Norway's Statoil ASA (NYSE ADR: STO) signed a massive deal with Russian behemoth Rosneft in a venture that may require more than $100 billion over the next few decades.

    Specifically, the company aims to help Rosneft develop untapped oil resources in the Arctic, as Moscow struggles to gain a competitive advantage given declining oil production in Siberia.

    It's the third recent oil partnership for Rosneft.

    Reuters reports:

    "The agreement, signed on Saturday, provided a showcase for president-elect Vladimir Putin, serving out his final days as prime minister before a May 7 inauguration, and Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, in charge of energy and industrial policy.

    As a legacy of their time in government, the three deals secure capital and expertise for a push into some of the world's potentially most energy-rich regions."

    The deal highlights a number of key issues for both oil companies and Moscow moving forward.

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  • Exxon Stock

  • ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) Earnings Miss – But Investors Should Stay Put ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) earnings came up short this morning. The oil giant missed analysts' expectations by about 9 cents.

    Steve Schaefer at Forbes runs down the numbers:

    "The energy giant recorded earnings of $9.5 billion, or $2.00 per share. Those figures were down 11% and 7%, respectively, from the first quarter of 2011, and earnings per share were below the $2.09 analyst consensus. Revenue of $124.1 billion was up 8.8% from a year ago, but just shy of the $124.8 billion expected.

    Earnings in Exxon's upstream, or exploration and production, fell 10.1% from a year ago, to $7.8 billion, while downstream earning, which include refining, were up 44% from the prior year to $1.6 billion, thanks largely to gains from asset sales and improvements in volume and mix."

    This earnings miss is the least of Exxon's short-term worries as we head into the summer months and the election heats up. There are a lot of problems for the company to overcome all at once - but it shouldn't send ExxonMobil investors headed for the exits.

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  • Exxon-Rosneft Deal Centers on Arctic Oil (NYSE: XOM) Quite a few emails already coming in about the potential of the $3.2 billion Exxon-Rosneft deal.

    On April 16, Exxon (NYSE: XOM) officially entered into a massive offshore exploration partnership with Russia's Rosneft to jointly develop resources in the Kara and Black Seas.
    From the Rosneft press release:

    "The agreements signed today form joint ventures to manage an exploration program in the Kara Sea and Black Sea. They also set the terms for investments to be made by the partners in Russian offshore projects. The initial cost of preliminary exploration is estimated at over US $3.2 billion.

    Neftegaz Holding America Limited, an independent indirect subsidiary of Rosneft registered in Delaware, concluded separate agreements on the acquisition of a 30 percent equity in ExxonMobil's share in the La Escalera Ranch project in the Delaware Basin in West Texas in the United States."

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  • Oil Companies Big Winners as U.S. Becomes Net Exporter of Fuel The United States has become a net exporter of fuel for the first time in more than 60 years. That simple fact could drive oil-company profits for at least the next decade.

    It's also another sign of dramatic shifts in the energy industry, with consumption declining in the United States and rising in emerging economies.

    The United States exported 98 million barrels more of fuel than it imported in the first 10 months of 2011. Just a few years ago, in 2005, the country imported almost 900 million barrels of fuel.

    "It looks like a trend that could stay in place for the rest of the decade," Dave Ernsberger, global director of oil at Platts, told The Wall Street Journal. "The conventional wisdom is that U.S. is this giant black hole sucking in energy from around the world. This changes that dynamic."

    The United States is still the world's largest importer of crude oil, however - although even U.S. oil imports have dropped by 10% since 2006.

    Actually, that's one of the reasons the United States has become a net exporter of fuel. New sources of domestic oil from the shale fields in North Dakota and Texas, as well as Canada's Athabasca oil sands, have made more crude available to U.S. refining companies.

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  • Russian Arctic Oil to Give Exxon Mobil Leg Up on Rivals With fresh sources of oil becoming increasingly scarce, Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) scored a major coup on Tuesday by making a deal for access to the vast reserves of Russian Arctic oil.

    Many companies were in the hunt for the Russian Arctic oil, including BP PLC (NYSE ADR: BP), Royal Dutch Shell PLC (NYSE ADR: RDS.A), Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX), Total SA (NYSE ADR: TOT) and Statoil ASA (NYSE ADR: STO), but it was Exxon that walked away with the prize.

    The arrangement with state-controlled Rosneft (PINK: RNFTF) gives Exxon a significant advantage over its major rivals -- all of which have struggled in recent years to replace the oil they're extracting with new sources.

    Rosneft, in which the Russian government has a 75% stake, estimates the three Kara Sea blocks where Exxon will be exploring contain about 36 billion barrels of recoverable oil.

    "If that figure is correct and Exxon is able to produce the fields, we are talking about one of the world's largest oil discoveries in the last 50 years," Fadel Gheit, an energy analyst at Oppenheimer & Co., told MarketWatch. "But it remains to be seen how much of that oil is economically recoverable."

    Rosneft estimates total reserves in the area at about 110 billion barrels of oil equivalent - an amount four times the size of Exxon's proven global reserves.

    Quid Pro Quo

    Having access to reserves of that size will help Exxon rectify its replacement ratio for oil. Earlier this year Exxon reported that for every 100 barrels of oil it produced, it found just 95 barrels of new oil.

    Exxon has been more successful in replacing natural gas resources - it finds 158 cubic feet of gas for every 100 it extracts. But with natural gas prices slumping, the company would much rather find more oil.

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