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Gazprom excludes Shell from list of field developers

The Times (UK): Gazprom excludes Shell from list of field developers

“Shell’s exclusion will be a keen disappointment to the multinational. The Dutch company had originally hoped that an asset swap agreement with Gazprom earlier this year in which Shell gave Gazprom a 25 per cent share of Sakhalin, an LNG project in Eastern Siberia, would open the door to a stake in Shtokman. Only days later, Shell was forced to announce that costs had doubled at Sakhalin, forcing the company into new negotiations with Gazprom. “Shell has blotted its copybook with Gazprom…”

Saturday 17 Sept 2005

By Carl Mortished, International Business Editor

SHELL and ExxonMobil have been excluded from the development of Shtokman, a Russian offshore gasfield with enough reserves to keep Britain supplied for 17 years.

The shortlist of eligible partners, announced yesterday by Alexei Miller, the chairman of Gazprom, comprises the Norwegian energy companies Statoil and Norsk Hydro, two American firms, Chevron and ConocoPhillips, and Total of France.

Competition is intense for a share in one of the world’s biggest gas reserves which is earmarked for export to the United States. More than a dozen companies submitted bids for Gazprom’s first venture offshore, a vast project in difficult Arctic conditions that could cost about $20 billion (£11 billion).

Announcing the shortlist, Mr Miller said the final choice of partners could be reduced to two or three names when a deal is signed next year.

Gazprom’s shortlist has been drawn up according to political and technical criteria, say analysts who were surprised by the absence of at least one of the top three players in liquefied natural gas (LNG). The Russian utility lacks any experience in LNG, a technology at which both Shell and ExxonMobil claim a leading edge.

Shell’s exclusion will be a keen disappointment to the multinational. The Dutch company had originally hoped that an asset swap agreement with Gazprom earlier this year in which Shell gave Gazprom a 25 per cent share of Sakhalin, an LNG project in Eastern Siberia, would open the door to a stake in Shtokman. Only days later, Shell was forced to announce that costs had doubled at Sakhalin, forcing the company into new negotiations with Gazprom.

“Shell has blotted its copybook with Gazprom and ExxonMobil is being punished,” commented a leading City analyst. The American firm is said to have aroused the fury of Russia’s President Putin when it engaged in talks with Mikhail Khodorkovsky, prior to the arrest of the Yukos chief executive.

Situated some 500 kilometres north of Murmansk, Shtokman is a key asset for Gazprom and potentially for the United States. Its reserves, estimated to be 2.5 trillion cubic metres could satisfy current American demand for three years but development in the Arctic ice pack will be an extraordinary challenge.

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