* Sechin heads to Japan to discuss Russian offshore oil, gas
* Rosneft offered to increase oil supplies to China
MOSCOW, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Igor Sechin, the head of Russia’s top crude producer Rosneft, will discuss offshore projects with Japanese companies in the final leg of a trip aimed at luring energy-hungry Asian firms into tapping Russia’s vast Arctic resources.
Sechin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is due to arrive in Japan on Tuesday after a two-day visit to China, Rosneft’s press service told Reuters.
Russia, the world’s top crude producer, will need hundreds of billions of dollars to unlock the potential of the Arctic. It has been seeking partnership with overseas companies for expertise and finance and has already signed deals with Exxon Mobil, Statoil and Eni.
“Sechin is going today to discuss large-scale Rosneft offshore projects with Japanese companies,” a Rosneft spokeswoman said.
Putin has made a so-called “eastern vector” of energy development a priority and has urged Russian companies to forge closer ties with Asian consumers.
Russian firms, including top gas producer Gazprom, have been losing market share in Europe, a traditional export market for Russian energy, as the European Union seeks to diversify sources of oil and gas supply.
Last week, industry sources told Reuters that Rosneft was seeking to borrow from Chinese state firm CNPC in exchange for possibly doubling oil supplies, which would make Beijing the largest consumer of Russian oil and divert supplies away from Europe.
Rosneft, however, said it was not in talks about obtaining a loan from China.
In China, the world’s top energy consumer, Sechin offered to increase oil supplies and proposed that Chinese firms take part in an ambitious project to develop offshore oil and gas, estimated at 100 billion tonnes of oil equivalent in Russia.
Only Rosneft and Gazprom, both state-owned, have exclusive access to Russian undersea mineral resources.
Japan is the world’s largest consumer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and has increased consumption, shipped in by tankers, after the disaster at its Fukushima nuclear plant in March 2011.
Rosneft may also chip in to feed Japan with frozen gas, albeit in the more distant future, as it mulls possibly building its own LNG plant on the Pacific island of Sakhalin, where it already pumps oil in partnership with the U.S. major ExxonMobil and Japan’s Sodeco.
Sources at Rosneft told Reuters the plant might potentially produce up to 10 million tonnes of LNG a year - the same amount as a Shell -led plant, also in Sakhalin, Russia’s only active LNG project.