ITERA and ZARUBEZHNEFT
Due to the close partnership between these two companies in Turkmenistan, Itera and Zarubezhneft are profiled together.
Itera Contact Information
117209, Моscow, Sevastopolsky Prospekt, 28, Bldg. 1., Russian Federation
T: +7(495) 411-8500, +7 (495) 788-8500
F: +7(495) 788-8502
bld. 594 Bitarap Turkmenistan shaely
T: + (99312) 99-93-00
F: + (99312) 99-93-01
Zarubezhneft Contact Information
Building 1, 9/1/1 Armiansky pereulok, Moscow 101990, Russian Federation
T: (495) 748-65-00
F: (495) 748-65-05, 956-14-91
Telex: 113303 STEK RU
History in Turkmenistan
According to the Itera USA website, the company was founded in 1992 as a commodities trading business to establish barter transactions with the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. In 1994, Itera USA provided the government of Turkmenistan with sugar in exchange for the right to natural gas, which was then sold by Itera USA to Ukraine. The Moscow-based Itera Group, of which Itera USA is now a subsidiary, concluded a formal agreement with Turkmenistan for ongoing gas trade to Ukraine.[i]
In 2001, Itera and Zarubezhneft signed an agreement with the government of Turkmenistan regarding their intent to participate in the development of Turkmenistan’s oil and gas sector.[ii] In 2002, Itera’s subsidiary Gazkhiminvest, Rosneft and Zarubezhneft formed a joint venture called Zarit, with Gazkhiminvest and Rosneft holding 37 percent and Zarubezhneft 26 percent. [iii] In February 2004, Turkmenneft obtained a fifteen percent stake in Zarit, while Rosneft and Itera held onto thirty-one percent each, and Zarubezhneft held the remaining twenty-three percent.[iv] Zarit’s objective was to develop offshore blocks 29, 30 and 31, which are located in the southeast portion of Turkmenistan’s portion of the shelf, near the Iranian border. The blocks are estimated to hold vast reserves of oil and gas. A Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) was to have been signed between the government of Turkmenistan and Zarit for the development of these three blocks in 2003. The signing was postponed until 2004, but once again an agreement failed to materialize. Also of note, in March 2004, the government of Turkmenistan and National Reserve Bank (NRB), a Russian commercial investment bank, agreed that the latter would “organize the finances and handle banking for Zarit.”[v]
The development of offshore blocks 29, 30 and 31 was at a standstill due to the unresolved legal status of the Caspian Sea. One of the blocks extends beyond Turkmenistan’s section of the sea into Iran’s portion.[vi] Nonetheless, the leaders of both Itera and Zarubezhneft consistently maintained that the venture would receive the authorization to go forward. In April 2008, Itera’s CEO Vladimir Makeyev optimistically announced, “We are in the final stages of talks to sign a PSA for blocks 29, 30, 31”.[vii] In an August 2008 interview with the Information Agency Finmarket, Nikolai Brunich, the General Director of Zarubezhneft, was asked whether Zarit had yet received a response from the government of Turkmenistan to its application to develop the offshore blocks. He replied, “We have been negotiating this issue for a sufficiently long time. The main obstacle is the territorial disagreements between the countries of the Caspian basin. A meeting is planned for September between all of the governments of this region. After the summit, we hope that there will be the opportunity to approach discussion of a contact and begin conducting geological exploration. But Zarit will exist, and we still plan to obtain the right to develop the three blocks on the Caspian shelf.”[viii]
Current Scope of Operations
In December 2009, Itera and Zarubezhneft signed a Production Sharing Agreement for the development of offshore Block 21, with Zarubezhneft controlling 51 percent and Itera 49 percent of the project.[ix] In June 2010, President Berdymukhammedov listed Itera as one of the country’s “reliable partners,” based on its work on Block 21 as well as projects to construct gas pipelines, hippodromes and a hotel in the Avaza tourist complex.[x] In April 2010, Igor Makarov, Itera’s Chairman, reported that Block 21 holds an estimated 219 million tons of recoverable oil and 92 billion cubic meters of associated gas. As such, Itera and Zarubezhneft will be conducting exploratory operations in the block until 2012, at a price of approximately $6 billion. In addition to speaking about Block 21, Makarov also noted the following in regards to the long-anticipated development of Blocks 29, 30 and 31: “This project is dormant at present, but sooner or later, Turkmenistan and Iran will agree on the section in the shelf contested by them, and we will start work on these three blocks. Especially given that block 21 is located close to block 29.”[xi] In December 2010, Wikileaks released a confidential 2008 cable from the US Embassy in Ashgabat in which it is stated that Itera’s business operations also extend to the construction of a stadium in Turkmenabat, a carbamide plant, a 5-star hotel in Avaza and a spa, as well as a contract to build a urea/ammonia plant and a contract to supply ambulances. The cable also states that Itera has spared little expense in courting the favor of President Berdymukhammedov, most notably by giving him a yacht worth 60 million Euros. The cable concludes that the “company undoubtedly really wants a gas exploration contract, especially onshore, and the gift of the yacht is a nice enticement to move the process along…Itera’s business activities are wide-ranging and difficult to isolate, and the reported gift of the yacht serves as a sign that the company’s willingness to go to great lengths to win business should not be underestimated.”[xii]
Itera was a “Bronze Sponsor” of the 2010 Turkmenistan International Oil and Gas Conference.
————————————————————————————————————————[i] IteraUSA, Who We are & What We do, http://www.itera.com/index2.htm. Accessed February 14, 2011.