TotalEnergies sells stake in war-related Russian gas field

French energy company TotalEnergies said Friday it was divesting its stake in a Russian gas field that was reported this week to supply the fuel going into Russian jet fighters.

The company said it had signed a deal Friday with its local Russian partner Novatek to sell its 49 percent stake in the Termokarstovoye gas field “on economic terms, allowing TotalEnergies to recover the outstanding amounts invested in the field.”

It said the divestment was agreed in July and submitted to Russian authorities in early August, with approval on August 25.

That was the day after an article appeared in the French daily Le Monde reporting the alleged refining of natural gas condensates from Termokarstovoye into jet fuel for fighter-bombers involved in the Russian attack on Ukraine since February.

TotalEnergies — formerly Total — owns 49 percent of Terneftegaz, the company that extracts gas from the Termokarstovoye field.

The remaining 51 percent is owned by Novatek, in which the French company also has a 19.4 percent stake.

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TotalEnergies initially said it had no control over the sales of its Russian partner.

On Friday, it said Novatek had denied that its condensates were being refined into Russian military jet fuel.

Instead, they were sent to a refinery whose products are exported exclusively outside of Russia, a statement from the French company’s Novatek said.

TotalEnergies also said it is considering legal action to end an “unfounded controversy that damages the company’s reputation”.

“We are grateful to (French President) Emmanuel Macron and the French people for their support of Ukraine. Against this background, it is a disgrace for France if French companies help the murder of Ukrainians and the destruction of our cities,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted Friday.

“TotalEnergies, get out of Russia!”

‘Exclusively exported’ fuel

Le Monde reported Wednesday that condensate from Termokarstovoye was sent to a refinery that had supplied 42,700 tons of fuel to air bases hosting Russian planes from February to July.

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They accounted for more than eight percent of the raw materials received at the Omsk refinery since the invasion of Ukraine, it added.

Citing data from financial information company Refinitiv, the paper said the jet fuel shipments can be traced back to Termokarstovoye’s by-products.

Novatek said via TotalEnergies that all condensates from the gas field “will be supplied to the Ust-Luga processing complex in the Leningrad region.

“The range of products obtained during processing at the Ust-Luga complex includes jet fuel that is exported exclusively outside Russia and does not even have the certification to be sold within the country”.

TotalEnergies is the only major Western energy group to continue operations in Russia, which accounts for 16.6 percent of its hydrocarbon production and 30 percent of its gas.

Chief executive Patrick Pouyanne had said in March that the Russian gas fields operated by the company’s joint ventures “will continue to function whether I leave or not” and are vital to Europe’s energy supply.

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Selling TotalEnergies’ assets at low prices would amount to handing over billions to Russian investors, he argued.

But the company has since announced a partial withdrawal from Russia, including cutting funding for the Arctic LNG 2 gas project.

In July, it sold its 20 percent stake in an Arctic oil field to Russia’s Zarubejneft.

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