Russia's largest oil producer Rosneft has started drilling on two wells in the Kara Sea in the Russian Arctic, its Chief Executive Igor Sechin said on Tuesday.
It is the company's first project in the Kara Sea since it was forced to suspend a joint venture project in the area with U.S. ExxonMobil six years ago due to Western sanctions.
Speaking during a televised meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, Sechin said that Rosneft's drilling platform was currently operating in the Kara Sea.
Sechin did not provide other details, but Russian state news agency TASS said that Rosneft had started to drill two wells at its Vostochno-Prinovozemelskiy 1 and 2 blocks near the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in Russia's Arctic and which may contain up to 2 billion tonnes of oil (14.7 billion barrels).
Sechin also told Putin that it would take RN-Sakhalinmorneftegaz, a Rosneft unit, one and a half to two years to return to its usual output levels, after it had to limit oil production to meet Russia's quota under a global oil output cut deal agreed by OPEC and allies including Russia.
Sechin did not say who was providing the oil platform for the drilling in the Kara Sea.
Rosneft, like some other Russian companies and banks, was put under Western sanctions in 2014 after Moscow annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine and which was followed by prolonged military conflict in Eastern Ukraine.
The sanctions forced ExxonMobil to pull out of its joint venture with Rosneft in the same part of the Kara Sea, which discovered an oilfield later called 'Pobeda', or Victory. The sanctions remain in place.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Writing by Alexander Marrow/Katya Golubkova; Editing by Jan Harvey and Susan Fenton)