Japan joins Russian push for Pacific gas projects

TOKYO (Reuters) - Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom GAZP.MM signed a memorandum of understanding with Japan on Tuesday to explore gas projects in eastern Russia, the company's chief executive said.

Alexei Miller told reporters the memorandum would explore ways to process gas near the Pacific city of Vladivostok for supply to consumers in Russia and the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan.

The Agency of Natural Resources and Energy, part of the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, as well as Itochu Corp 8001.T and Japan Petroleum Exploration Co (Japex) 1662.T signed up to the memorandum.

The gas would be delivered to Vladivostok along the new Sakhalin-Khabarovsk-Vladivostok pipeline, which Miller said would be completed by the end of 2011.

“After construction of the Sakhalin-Khabarovsk-Vladivostok gas pipeline, and after the demands of domestic consumers are met, it will become possible to supply gas and its products from Vladivostok to Asia-Pacific countries, including Japan,” Miller said.

Miller also said Gazprom had begun development of the Sakhalin-3 gas project. Though it was too early to determine partners for this project, Miller said those companies with which Gazprom had worked on Sakhalin-2 would take preference.

Royal Dutch Shell RDSa.L and Japanese firms Mitsui 8031.T and Mitsubishi Corp 8058.T are Gazprom's partners at the Sakhalin-2 project, which shipped Russia's first liquefied natural gas to Japan at the end of March.

Reporting by Oleg Shchedrov, writing by Robin Paxton; Editing by Keiron Henderson