“The clock is ticking. Total’s exit from TerNefteGaz should serve as yet another warning to ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, and to the whole fossil fuel industry. There can be no ethical production, trade, or profit from Russian fossil fuels. Can these companies guarantee their shareholders that they are not also fuelling the war, as well as financing it?” writes Luke Wilson, a senior advisor at Global Witness, one of the B4Ukraine members.
At the end of August 2022, French energy giant TotalEnergies announced it had sold its 49% stake in TerNefteGaz after days of mounting pressure caused by the investigation by the Global Witness about the company’s possible involvement in fueling Russian military jets.
This makes Total the first Western oil major to have completed the sale of Russian fossil fuel assets, argues Global Witness expert. Soon after that, in early September, the news arrived that Norwegian energy group Equinor had also completed its exit from Russia.
Total’s deal shouldn’t be considered a complete exit, as Total still owns 19.4% of Novatek, Russia’s second-largest gas producer and the buyer of the remaining TerNefteGaz shares. Still, Luke Wilson believes that Total’s exit from TerNefteGaz should serve as yet another warning to ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, and the whole fossil fuel industry that there can be no ethical production, trade, or profit from Russian fossil fuels.
The problem is that these companies are on a leash of high profits - Western oil majors will soon receive their Russian joint ventures’ payout of 2022 dividends. Shell has already received a $165 million dividend from its 27.5% stake in the Sakhalin-2 oil & gas joint venture for 2021 revenues. Total is owed well over $400 million.
What to do with this bloody money made in the country waging unprovoked war on its neighbor?
“Clearly, these profits made from blood oil and gas at the expense of Ukrainian lives should be forgone. Governments must not leave this decision up to the oil giants. Any Russian fossil fuel dividend paid to a company for profits made after February 24 should be directed to Ukrainian reconstruction funds,” argues the expert.
However, there should be no confusion - redirecting some profits to Ukraine doesn’t compensate for financing the state responsible for thousands of lost Ukrainian lives.