British oil giant BP has put on ice its plans to sponsor a research project in Skolkovo, a hi-tech hub near Moscow. BP said on Wednesday that it had decided to pull out of Skolkovo for fears of being accused of breaching a shareholder agreement with its Russian joint venture TNK-BP Ltd. Skolkovo is a project conceived by Russian president Dmitry Medvedev and chaired by billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, a shareholder in TNK-BP.

BP said that AAR, the consortium of Russian oligarchs that co-own TNK-BP, might treat the investment in a research and development project as violation of the agreement under which TNK-BP has the priority to carry out all energy projects in Russia and Ukraine. BP, thereby, turned the same trick back round on AAR, which recently scuppered BP’s deal with Rosneft about Artic shelf development.

It was planned that BP, Moscow’s G.K. Boreskov Institute of Catalysis and Imperial College London would sign an agreement to launch a three-year research project called “Intensification of heat transfer and catalysis” during British prime minister David Cameron visit to Moscow. BP and Viktor Vekselberg’s Skolkovo Foundation had planned to co-invest £6.7m ($10.5m) into the project. But the last moment BP pulled out. The project is now under question. 

“The reason could be to put Viktor Vekselber, the president of Skolkovo, in awkward position. He is in charge of implementation of Skolkovo, which is a part of the state policy of modernization, so he has to answer before the government,” the source told Russian Mafia (

A catalysis project is important for Russian oil industry, the experts say. Russia is lagging behind in terms of depth of oil processing. The average level is only 75%, which gives high output of law quality oil. In such quantities this fuel oil is not necessary and goes for export. The government wants oil companies to increase the depth of processing and produce larger amount of light oil. BP is a world leader in the production of catalysts.