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Exxon Mobil Seeks U.S. Sanctions Waiver for Oil Project in Russia

But Mr. Tillerson and company officials did note that Exxon Mobil had received a waiver to complete drilling of an exploration well in Russia’s Arctic waters. Company officials also disclosed that they had urged Obama administration officials to make American sanctions consistent with European Union sanctions, which gave greater latitude to European companies to continue taking part in some Russian projects.

The Exxon Mobil waiver request for the Black Sea was reported Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal.

Asked about the waiver application, Alan Jeffers, an Exxon Mobil spokesman, said, “We don’t comment on ongoing issues.” A Treasury representative said the department would not comment on individual licenses or waiver requests.

The oil industry official said that the application had been made in 2015, with Exxon Mobil arguing that it could lose its contractual exploration rights in the Black Sea if it did not begin drilling operations by the end of 2017. European companies, particularly Eni, the Italian oil and gas giant, could then pick up the work.

The Russian news media quoted Zeljko Runje, Rosneft’s vice president for offshore projects, saying last June: “We are going to drill with Eni next year. That is our plan. On the Black Sea.”

European sanctions exempted some contracts previously signed by European companies, while United States sanctions drew a harder line, international energy specialists said.

Hal Eren, a former official in the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, said that such waivers were rarely requested or granted and that in most cases such permission was given only for environmental or safety reasons. The Exxon request is particularly unlikely to succeed, he said, because of the narrow nature of the current sanctions.

“I don’t think they would issue a license, especially given the political context in which this takes place,” Mr. Eren said.

United States and European sanctions were imposed on Russia in March 2014 in response to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Even as the Ukraine crisis deepened, Exxon continued pressing for deeper involvement in Russia’s oil industry.

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Rex Tillerson’s Maverick Oil Diplomacy

Rex W. Tillerson, former chief executive of ExxonMobil and Donald J. Trump’s nominee to be secretary of state, has conducted his own brand of oil-oriented diplomacy during his 41-year career at Exxon, a company that has often cut deals with authoritarian leaders of politically unstable countries.



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