February 27, 2019 / 3:04 PM / 21 days ago

Novatek, Shell see Russian gas keeping edge in Europe over U.S

LONDON (Reuters) - Russian gas giant Novatek and oil major Shell said on Wednesday Russian gas would remain more competitive in Europe than U.S. gas, as Moscow pursues new mega projects that would be insulated from any new U.S. sanctions.

A company logo is seen at the sales office of Novatek, Russia's largest independent natural gas producer, in Moscow September 16, 2012. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

The United States has already imposed numerous sanctions against Russian individuals and companies over Moscow’s interference in Ukraine, alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and accusations it was behind a nerve agent attack in Britain. Russia denies the allegations.

Washington is mulling new sanctions that could put further strain on Russia’s economy and companies. So far, there have been no sanctions affecting conventional or liquefied natural gas (LNG) production in Russia.

Novatek’s Chief Financial Officer Mark Gyetvay said the company would build all equipment and technology in Russia to protect itself. “We will not hold ourselves hostage to U.S. sanctions,” he told the IP Week conference in London.

He said Novatek was able to deliver LNG to Europe for $3.15 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) compared to $7-$8 for U.S. producers. That is also well below the average price in Europe that Gazprom expects for its gas this year of at least $230 per 1,000 cubic meters, or $6.4 per mmBtu.

Gyetvay said Novatek was extracting gas at a cost of 10 cents per mmBtu versus $3 in the United States, and liquefying gas for 50 cents versus $3 in America.

“Russian gas will be very competitive versus the U.S. Gulf coast,” he said.

Gyetvay appeared to be referring to typical contracts of the dominant U.S. LNG producer Cheniere Energy and its customers, whose main elements are a U.S natural gas futures price plus 15 percent, and a $3 liquefaction fee per mmBtu.

But gas prices in U.S. shale regions have been as low as 25 cents per mmBtu and have even been heard to be negative, meaning the producer pays to offload gas. Gas is also flared, as some producers are primarily set up to sell oil.

Energy companies are flooding Europe with U.S. natural gas, establishing a foothold in a market dominated by Russia and seen as a key battleground in Washington’s efforts to curb Moscow’s energy influence.

That influx has helped depress LNG prices, with the Asian spot price heard at about $6.2 per mmBtu last week and European LNG spot prices just below the North West European gas hub price of around $6 per mmBtu.

Gyetvay also said Novatek was raising its guidance for the production of sea-borne LNG to 70 million tonnes per year by 2030 from 50-57 million tonnes previously.

The biggest producer of LNG in the world, Qatar, currently produces 77 million tonnes per year and plans to reach 110 million by the middle of next decade.

Shell, which has a long history of energy cooperation with Russia, said it had created a new 50/50 venture with Russian state giant Gazprom that would use Shell LNG know-how to develop Russia’s own technology for supercooling gas.

The venture will effectively insulate Russia from any new U.S. sanctions on LNG where technology belongs to only a handful of players - mainly global oil majors such as Shell, Exxon and Total.

Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Writing by Vladimir Soldatkin and Sabina Zawadzki; Editing by Jan Harvey and Mark Potter

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