* Almost all fields connected to Crimea
* Crimea to hold referendum on joining Russia this month
* Energy majors are investors in the region
By Henning Gloystein
LONDON, March 7 Ukrainian plans for expanding
Black Sea natural gas output have been thrown into doubt by
Russia's seizure of Crimea, a region linked to most of Ukraine's
Past price disputes between Russia and Ukraine have led to
the Russians cutting off supply, prompting Kiev to spur
development of its own resources including onshore shale gas and
Black Sea fields.
Ukraine failed to pay Russian gas company Gazprom
$440 million by a deadline on Friday, sparking fresh concerns
Gazprom could switch off supplies like it did in 2009.
Ukraine's Black Sea push has attracted energy majors as
investors, including Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell
, ENI and OMV.
Promising developments include the Odessa gas field where
plans call for output of more than a billion cubic metres of gas
But uncertainty clouds such plans after Russia effectively
seized control of Crimea following last month's ouster of
Ukraine's pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich.
Escalating the crisis further, Crimea's parliament,
dominated by ethnic Russians, voted on Thursday to set a March
16 referendum on the region joining Russia.
Exxon Mobil has put its offshore activities in Ukraine on
hold due to the circumstances, Senior Vice President Andrew
Swiger told investors this week.
"Their (Ukraine's) high hopes of increasing offshore gas
production may fade with the Crimea referendum," Mikhail
Korchemkin at East European Gas Analysis told Reuters.
Ukraine uses more than 50 billion cubic metres of gas a
year, worth around $20 billion at current European market
prices, with more than half of it coming from Russia.
European Union countries also receive Russian gas piped via
Ukraine and were impacted by the shutting off of supplies in
As Ukraine is a member of the EU's energy community, the
European Commission also supports Kiev's efforts to develop its
fuel resources and storage.
In the event Crimea does join Russia, analysts said
Ukraine's Black Sea gas could end up in Russian hands though be
connected to Ukraine's gas infrastructure. They say Ukraine
would then likely cut off supplies to Crimea.
That in turn could prompt Russia to use the Odessa field and
other Ukrainian developments in the Black Sea to supply Crimea,
"Taking into consideration all logistics ...it is hard to
predict how Crimea can live without normal relationships and
connections with Ukraine," said Arthur Nitsevych, a partner at
Interlegal, a Ukraine-based transport and shipping law firm.
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Saul and Oleg Vukmanovic;
editing by Jason Neely)