MOSCOW/PARIS, Dec 26 (Reuters) - Energy majors Gazprom , Total and Statoil are to meet on Thursday to discuss whether to go ahead with their first investment in Russian offshore gas field Shtokman, a source at Gazprom told Reuters on Monday.
French newspaper La Tribune, without identifying its sources, had reported that the meeting would take place on Monday.
France’s Total and Norway’s Statoil will need to write Gazprom a first cheque of $1.5 billion or quit the project, La Tribune wrote. The paper did not make clear whether this sum would come from both companies or from each company.
Spokesmen for Total and Statoil declined to comment. A spokesman for Shtokman AG said the meeting between the stakeholders would take place before the end of the year.
The first phase of the project led by Gazprom, Russia’s gas export monopoly, will require an investment worth $15 billion.
Last month, the prime ministers of Russia and France lent political backing to efforts to come to a final investment decision by the end of the year.
But Russia has yet to tell the partners how the project will be taxed. Without a firm tax regime in place, they are unlikely to go ahead with the investments needed to deliver the Arctic field’s estimated 3.9 trillion cubic metres of gas to market.
Total owns 25 percent, Statoil 24 percent and Gazprom the remainder of Shtokman, one of the world’s largest gas fields which is located 550 kilometres (340 miles) offshore in the freezing waters of the Barents Sea.
Shtokman has no pre-existing infrastructure and poses financial and technical challenges unheard-of in Russia’s gas industry.
Gazprom had agreed with partners Total and Statoil to start pipeline gas production by end-2016 from Shtokman instead of 2013 as had initially been planned. Half of Shtokman’s output is to be shipped via pipelines and half sold as liquid natural gas or LNG.
Demand in Europe — the only realistic market for Shtokman after a boom in U.S. shale gas production — is still uncertain due to lingering economic problems, making the huge up-front costs of developing Shtokman look more daunting.
Oil and gas companies are increasing their focus on the Arctic after several huge discoveries, including finds by Statoil in the Norwegian waters of the Barents Sea. (Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Caroline Jacobs, with additional reporting Gwladys Fouche, editing by Jane Baird)