AP U.S.

Foreign Relations chair seeks answers from US oil firms on Russia business after Ukraine invasion

The head of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee has asked the country’s top three oilfield services companies to explain why they continued doing business in Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, and demanded that they commit to “cease all investments” in Russia’s fossil fuel infrastructure.

Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, cited an Associated Press report that the companies — SLB, Baker Hughes and Halliburton — helped keep Russian oil flowing even as sanctions targeted the Russian war effort.

Russia imported more than $200 million in technology from the three companies in the year following the invasion in February 2022, customs data obtained by B4Ukraine and vetted by The AP showed. Market leader SLB, formerly Schlumberger, even slightly grew its Russian business. Much of Russia’s oil is hard to reach, and analysts say that had U.S. oilfield services companies all pulled out, its production would have taken an immediate hit.

Menendez, in letters to the chief executives of the three companies, said he was “extremely disturbed” by AP’s findings. He noted that President Joe Biden and Congress had imposed “ wide-ranging sanctions related to Russia’s violation of another nation’s sovereignty,” while Russia’s invasion was “particularly heinous,” its soldiers committing “tens of thousands of atrocities.”

As people around the world made sacrifices in solidarity with Ukraine, the July 27 letter concluded, “your company sought to make a profit… there is simply no good explanation for this behavior, other than to make a dollar.”

There’s no evidence any of the firms violated sanctions by continuing to send equipment to Russia. Halliburton wound down its Russia operations less than six months after the invasion, while Baker Hughes sold its oilfield services business in Russia after about nine months. SLB announced it would stop exporting technology to Russia two days after AP asked for final comment on its first report, in July.

In contrast, oil majors such as Shell and BP announced they would quit Russia within days or weeks of the invasion, writing off billions of dollars.

SLB spokeswoman Moira Duff declined to comment on conversations with elected officials or regulators after receiving Menendez’s letter, and didn’t respond to questions about future investment in Russia. As of this spring, SLB had 9,000 employees there; in July, Duff confirmed the company still had employees in the country. On Sept. 1, she told The AP that in general “nothing has changed” since July, when the company insisted it had followed all laws and condemned the war. But she declined to discuss the number of employees SLB still has in Russia.

A Baker Hughes spokeswoman confirmed receipt of Menendez’s letter and said the company was addressing the concerns “directly with his office.”

Halliburton spokesman Brad Leone said by email that the firm was the first major oilfield services company to exit Russia, in compliance with sanctions. “It has been more than a year since we have conducted operations there,” he said.

B4Ukraine is a coalition of more than 80 nonprofits that has pressed Western businesses to exit the Russian market. Executive director Eleanor Nichol singled out SLB for criticism.

“It’s perverse that an American company continues to prop up Russia’s oil sector while the U.S. government and citizens have made sacrifices for Ukraine,” she said.

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