Russian parliament opens up LNG exports for Gazprom's rivals
* Putin yet to approve amendments to the law
* Russia wants to double its global LNG market share
MOSCOW Nov 27 (Reuters) - Russia's upper house of parliament approved on Wednesday legislative amendments to allow rivals of state-run Gazprom to export seaborne liquefied natural gas, paving the way for Russia to double its global LNG market share by 2020.
Only Russian President Vladimir Putin, who initiated the changes, now has to approve the amendments. Lawmakers had earlier said the law would come into force next year, three years before the first new LNG plant is launched.
State-run Gazprom was awarded exclusive rights to export natural gas in 2006.
But changes to the law to open up exports of super-cooled gas have been warranted by increasing competition in the global LNG market from Qatar, Australia and African countries. Gazprom has been slow to develop its own projects.
"The decision to increase the line-up of exporters of natural gas in the form of LNG must secure an increase in Russia's share of the gas market," an upper house document said.
Gazprom's monopoly on pipeline gas exports, which are currently pumped only in Europe, stays intact.
Russia wants to double its share in the global LNG market by 2020 from 4.5 percent currently. Gazprom and Royal Dutch Shell are key shareholders in Russia's only LNG plant, located on the Pacific island of Sakhalin.
The law would allow Russia's No.2 gas producer Novatek as well as Russia's top oil company Rosneft to proceed with their LNG projects, which they want to commission in a few years.
The law restricts Rosneft's LNG exports to those produced from offshore deposits.