* Deal to be signed during President Putin’s visit to Baku
* Concrete projects will be defined in next half a year
MOSCOW/BAKU, Aug 13 (Reuters) - Russia’s top crude producer Rosneft will sign a broad oil and gas cooperation agreement with Azerbaijan on Tuesday, industry sources said, the first step towards increasing its presence in a country Europe hopes will meet its energy demands.
Sources at Azeri state energy company SOCAR and Russian Energy Ministry said the agreement would not stipulate details of the cooperation between Rosneft and Azerbaijan, where the oil industry is dominated by Western oil majors such as BP, Statoil and Exxon Mobil.
“An agreement between Rosneft and SOCAR will be signed on Tuesday. Concrete projects will be defined in next half a year,” a source at the Azeri state company told Reuters.
Both Rosneft and SOCAR declined to comment.
The deal will be signed during a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s to the Azeri capital Baku where he is due to meet his Azeri counterpart, Ilham Aliyev.
The deal comes at a time when Rosneft is trying to end an export monopoly on Russian gas by Kremlin-controlled company, Gazprom. Rosneft has teamed up with Exxon Mobil to build a liquefied natural gas producing plant in the Russia’s far east later this decade.
Alexei Miller, head of Gazprom and a member of Putin’s inner circle, is noticeably absent from the Russian delegation.
Russia has had a limited presence in the Azeri energy industry with only Gazprom buying small amounts of Azeri gas for export in recent years. Russia’s No.2 crude producer Lukoil has some interests in Azeri’s oil and gas projects.
Putin’s visit underlines Russia’s growing interest in Azerbaijan which has almost a trillion cubic metres in gas reserves, according to BP data <0#NATGAS-RES=BP>.
Last month, industry sources told Reuters Rosneft was seeking a stake in Azerbaijan’s Absheron gas project. The source at SOCAR said “it’s not ruled out that Absheron along with other projects will be mentioned in the deal.” (Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Katya Golubkova in Moscow and Lada Evgrashina in Baku; editing by Elizabeth Piper and James Jukwey)