Redaction in Freedom of Information document
Zachary Boren

With billions of their pounds exposed to the Ukraine-Russia crisis and subsequent western sanctions, energy titans BP and Shell were holding meetings this spring and summer with just about everybody — but we don’t know what was said.

“Everybody’s talking to Shell,” the UK’s Foreign Office observed in an email exchanged disclosed to Energydesk via Freedom of Information.

FOI disclosures two and three of three pertaining to UK energy diplomacy in the crisis have come through the Energydesk inbox this week.

Rather like last month’s Energy Files edition, the government didn’t skimp on the redactions — several entire pages are blacked out, and large portions of dozens more have only snippets of information.

What can be gleaned from the reams of email exchanges is that UK energy companies exposed to the crisis were on the phone to everyone from UK officials, Russian higher-ups and even the Ukrainian Prime Minister.

Should you be interested in who met who when and a little bit of why then explore our documents for yourself. Maybe you’ll find something we didn’t see.


Disclosure 2

Here are 43 pages of free information, largely free of information.

BP, whose multi-billion pound relationship with Russian energy company Rosneft was described by the government as “unique”, was holding dinners, attended petroleum congresses (in Russia) and talking to ambassadors.

Shell, who the government claims is the international company most impacted by the Crimea chapter in this ongoing geopolitical drama, were busier still — its director Sam Smith meeting with Ukrainian PM Yatsenyuk in June.

Even Centrica got a mention, holding a meeting with the government on April 2 that was to “focus on energy (sanctions, support for Ukraine, EU diversification)”.

One interesting thing though was an email from the UK’s Foreign Office on June 4: “(Shell) just called. He wanted to alert us to a meeting taking place tomorrow in St Petersburg to discuss Arctic exploration, called at short notice by Putin. Further details were unclear and the timing kept being changed.

“REDACTED understood that those being invited included Russian scientists, geographers, and major Russian energy companies. Shell and a number of other big Western energy companies had also been invited. Shell would attend at Country Chair level, due to the short notice, they had not been able to field anyone more senior.”

The only public development in Arctic oil drilling was the next day’s announcement that Russia would return the Arctic Sunrise ship to Greenpeace.


Disclosure 3

Less stuff is REDACTED in this batch, but what we’ve been given is fairly eh.

We know that Iain Conn, BP’s Chief Exec of Refining and Marketing, met with then energy minister Michael Fallon in on March 17, assuring him the company “understood that there were bigger issues in play than BP’s economic interest”.

In a meeting on June 2nd, he said other obvious things like how BP is “taking the situation in Ukraine very seriously”.

He also said that it would comply with government sanctions, despite the month before extending a billion pound loan to JV partner Rosneft.

Also in this disclosure, the government assessed the consequences of the Ukraine gas crisis on the UK, and said that we’re not at direct risk of disruption — except for how the market reacts. Oops.