Gazprom flags Shtokman gas shift; Europe wary

Sat Apr 7, 2012 11:12am EDT
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By Denis Pinchuk

URENGOI, Russia (Reuters) - Gazprom (GAZP.MM: Quote) may ditch plans to pipe Arctic gas from its Shtokman project, a top executive said, potentially giving Russia's top energy firm more leeway to sell supplies from the huge field to customers outside Europe.

Gazprom may instead focus on producing more easily transportable liquefied natural gas at the Barents Sea deposit, deputy chief executive Alexander Medvedev said on Saturday - the first time the company has mentioned that option.

The comment is likely to stoke concerns in Europe about whether Russia can be relied on as a major long-term gas supplier, given rising demand for the fuel in Asian markets.

European companies have complained that Gazprom - which supplies a quarter of the continent's gas needs - has not met their requests for extra deliveries during the current cold snap. Gazprom said it has been unable to meet all the additional demand.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who will serve a third term as president from May, said last month that Russia should wean itself off its dependency on European pipeline gas deliveries and expand into super-cooled LNG, which can be delivered to the markets of Europe, the Middle East and Asia by tanker without infrastructure constraints.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday at the launch of a new gas well in Urengoi in the Arctic region, Medvedev admitted the company's exports to Europe might be less than the 154 billion cubic meters it has projected.

"We said that exports will total 154 (bcm this year) but even if it is 150 bcm, revenues won't be lower," he said.

Earlier this week a Gazprom's official said the company will increase its gas production next winter.   Continued...