(Adds detail, government source)
* Rosneft eyes access to future gas pipeline to China
* Rosneft raises stakes in struggle with Gazprom
By Vladimir Soldatkin and Denis Pinchuk
MOSCOW, March 7 Russia's top crude oil producer
Rosneft wants to break the monopoly of another
state-owned energy champion, Gazprom, to export gas
via pipelines, sources said on Friday, signalling a flare-up
between powerful clans.
Igor Sechin, a long-standing ally of Russian President
Vladimir Putin, transformed Rosneft into the world's top
publicly traded oil producer through the $50 billion purchase of
Anglo-Russian firm TNK-BP last year.
In a sign of Sechin's rising clout, Rosneft and Russia's
largest non-state gas producer Novatek have already
secured rights to export seaborne liquefied natural gas,
reversing a 2006 law that gave Gazprom a monopoly on gas
Gazprom still holds the exclusive rights to ship Russian gas
abroad via pipelines, which connect vast Siberian gas fields
with European clients. It meets 30 percent of gas demand in the
Rosneft in particular wants access to Gazprom's Sila Sibiri
(Power of Siberia) pipeline designed to carry gas to China at a
rate of 38 billion cubic metres a year, sources familiar with
the matter said.
Gazprom has yet to sign a final deal with China on the
pipeline and has delayed its launch to 2020 from 2018 expected
"It is unfair that the pipeline is designated only for one
company," a source at Rosneft said.
In its struggle against Gazprom, Rosneft in January hired TV
presenter Mikhail Leontiyev - who once called Gazprom CEO Alexei
Miller a "shell-shocked maniac" for downplaying the importance
of U.S. shale gas - to head its public relations office.
"We believe there are some factors restricting the gas
potential of Russia, which, due to increasing competition from
international majors, requires that laws be modernised,"
Rosneft's spokesman said, without elaborating.
Gazprom declined to comment.
Rosneft has staked a lot on developing its gas business.
After Sechin took the helm in May 2011, it acquired independent
gas firm Itera and gained rights to develop large deposits in
It plans to more than double gas output by the end of the
decade to take advantage of a gradual liberalisation of the
Russian gas market.
Thanks to new acquisitions, the company has seen its gas
output trebling over the past year to 42 billion cubic metres -
enough to meet gas demand in a country the size of France.
Gazprom has been in painstaking talks over the last 10 years
about shipping gas to China and has been unable to agree on
pricing. The company now aims to reach the agreement in May
during Putin's planned visit to China.
Gazprom head Miller is also a member of Putin's inner
Putin has urged domestic companies to forge close ties with
energy-hungry China as Europe, Russia's Cold War-era foe, tries
to diversify away from Moscow.
Sechin, unlike Gazprom, has successfully clinched deals to
increase oil supplies to China, which may see Rosneft
tripling its crude exports to Russia's neighbour later this
The Rosneft source said the company is eying natural gas
supplies to China and that around 1 trillion cubic metres of gas
is available for the company in East Siberia.
A government source confirmed Rosneft has been actively
lobbying for permission to export pipeline gas to China.
"They have sent different letters and appealed to the
government ... I think they will make a public statement (on gas
exports) soon," the source said.
(Editing by Dale Hudson)