* Rosneft to ship extra 600,000 tonnes via ESPO to China in
* Pacific port of Kozmino to export 23 mln tonnes next year
* Khodorkovsky says Putin cares about reputation, seeks
balance between Europe and Asia
By Vladimir Soldatkin
MOSCOW, Dec 24 Russia, the world's largest crude
oil producer, will export less oil than previously expected to
China in 2014, pipeline monopoly Transneft said on
Tuesday, as the Kremlin plays a balancing act between Asia and
Transneft said on its web site that Rosneft would
export an additional 600,000 tonnes (12,000 barrels per day) to
China via the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline spur
from Skovorodino near the border to Mohe in northern China.
The link, the main route for oil from Russia to China, had
previously been expected to pump 2 million additional tonnes
"We received a letter from Rosneft. An additional 600,000
tonnes will (shipped) via Skovorodino-Mohe spur," Transneft's
vice president Mikhail Barkov is quoted as saying.
He said that the volumes would total 15.6 million tonnes
next year, which could mean a decline from the 15.8 million
tonnes expected this year according to Reuters calculations.
This is less than the more than 17 million tonnes previously
expected by Transneft and traders, and would play at the hands
of Europe, which has been anticipating dwindling supplies from
Russia at the expense of increasing flows to China.
"Rosneft is fulfilling its contractual obligations to its
Chinese partners in accordance with the conditions of the
agreement," a Rosneft spokeswoman said in emailed comments.
State-run Rosneft, Russia's largest oil company, has struck
agreements to almost triple oil supplies to China in coming
years from the around 300,000 barrels per day (15 million tonnes
a year) it ships there currently.
President Vladimir Putin has urged Russian oil and gas
companies to forge close ties with energy-hungry Asian
economies. Europe, traditionally the biggest market for Russia's
oil and gas, is trying to diversify its supplies.
It was not immediately clear why exports to China would be
lower than expected next year. Some analysts say that it is the
echo of a spat between Rosneft chief Igor Sechin and the head of
Transneft, Nikolai Tokarev, who were forced by Putin to sign an
agreement in October on funding to expand ESPO.
Former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was freed from
prison on Friday and flown to Germany following a pardon from
Putin, said in a Russian media interview that Putin may believe
"too big a bet has been made on Asia" and be eager to mend
fences with Europe.
Khodorkovsky, whose now defunct oil company Yukos brokered
the first supply deal with China in the late 1990s, had been in
jail since 2003 after he fell out with the Kremlin. Yukos was
sold off at auction and its main production asset was snapped up
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak has said that Russia
will not cut oil supplies to Europe despite its plans to treble
flows to China, with output from new fields to cover rising
Traders have expected Rosneft's export volumes to China to
rise to as much as 20 million tonnes a year by 2015, on a par
with Germany, the biggest consumer of Russian oil to date.
Exports from the Pacific port of Kozmino are estimated to
total about 23 million tonnes, while an Energy Ministry official
has said these could rise to as much as 30 million tonnes next
year from 21 million tonnes in 2013.
Volumes shipped to China from Kozmino are not defined, but
expected to outstrip those to Japan in near future
Rosneft has also agreed to ship 7 million tonnes of oil a
year to China via Kazakhstan, a profitable duty-free route
within a Moscow-led customs union. On Tuesday, Russia and
Kazakhstan formally signed the deal on oil exports to China.
Barkov also said that the Caspian pipeline consortium
(CPC), in which Transneft is a shareholder, would increase oil
supplies from a terminal near the port of Novorossiisk by 6
million tonnes next year from expected 32.4 million tonnes in
2013 thanks to works to expand the pipeline.
One of the key sources for new oil was the Kashagan field in
Kazakhstan, the world's biggest oil find in decades, initially
launched in September.
It was mothballed due to leaks of gas from the pipelines.
Barkov said that CPC is not expecting oil from Kashagan until
summer, or "maybe even later", confirming source-based reports.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; additional reporting by Denis
Dyomkin; editing by Megan Davies and William Hardy)