Media are reporting that Exxon Mobil has applied for a waiver from U.S. sanctions on Russia so that it can resume drilling around the Black Sea with its partner, the Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft.
The Texas oil giant was run until this year by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who as the company's chief executive opposed the sanctions imposed in 2014 over Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea. Since becoming secretary of state, Tillerson has backed the sanctions.
A State Department spokesman said on April 19 that Tillerson has recused himself from any matters involving Exxon for two years, although the department will have a say in the administration's response to the waiver request.
The sanctions prohibit U.S. companies from transferring advanced off-shore and shale-drilling technology to Russia. Exxon was ordered to stop drilling in the Kara Sea off Russia's northern coast after they were imposed.
The head of Exxon's partner, Rosneft chief executive Igor Sechin, was personally blacklisted.
Exxon is arguing that it deserves a waiver because its exploration rights in the Black Sea will expire if it doesn’t act by this year, and because some of its competitors in Europe aren’t similarly restricted.