* Novatek, Rosneft lobby for gas exporting rights
* China's CNPC joins Novatek's Yamal LNG project
MOSCOW, June 21 Russian President Vladimir Putin
signalled the gradual end of state-controlled Gazprom's
monopoly on exports of natural gas, opening the way
for rivals Novatek and Rosneft to compete
for huge new Asian markets.
He made the announcement minutes after Novatek
signed a deal on Friday to supply at least 3 million tonnes of
liquefied natural gas (LNG) annually to China.
China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) also agreed to buy a 20
percent stake in Novatek's $20 billion Yamal-LNG project in
"We offer to lower restrictions gradually on liquefied
natural gas exports," Putin said in a speech at an economic
forum in St Petersburg, adding that the demand for the frozen
gas in the Asia Pacific region was growing rapidly.
The move would be a blow to Gazprom, which now has a
monopoly on exports of both pipeline gas and LNG under a 2006
law, and which is itself planning a major expansion in sales to
Asia because its European markets have been stagnating.
Gazprom announced a plan to build a new LNG facility on the
The right to export gas is important to Novatek's plans to
set up the LNG plant in Yamal together with France's Total
Novatek currently has 80 percent of the project and Total 20
percent. The Russian company has said it would retain at least
51 percent in Yamal LNG after new partners join it.
Under current arrangements for the project, Gazprom had to
be involved as an exporting agent and its role was not clear.
Novatek has been postponing investment decision for the project
as it has not been able to secure exporting rights.
Russia, the world's second largest gas producer after the
United States, exports the bulk of its gas via a pipeline
network to Europe where demand is weak due to a slowing economy.
Novatek and the country's top oil producer Rosneft
are both lobbying for LNG export rights, with the latter
agreeing with ExxonMobil to build an LNG plant on
Russian Far East estimated at $15 billion.
On Friday, Rosneft agreed to sell 1 million tonnes of LNG to
Japan's Sodeco and 1.25 million tonnes to Marubeni,
respectively, from 2019. Swiss oil trader Vitol has
also signed a preliminary agreement to buy LNG from Rosneft.
"The strong demand for LNG in Japan and other Asia Pacific
region countries, which has been observed in recent years,
provides wide opportunities for Rosneft's new LNG project in the
Russian Far East," Rosneft said in a statement.