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The Times: Gazprom cool over foreign investment in Arctic gas

November 28, 2007
Carl Mortished, World Business Editor

Hopes that Gazprom might open up the Yamal Peninsula to foreign oil companies appeared to be dashed yesterday when the Russian utility’s deputy chief executive gave a cool response to the notion of further investments by international oil companies in Russia’s gas-rich Arctic regions.

Alexander Medvedev, who heads Gazprom’s export business, spoke of “psychological barriers” to further investment by foreign oil companies and said that he had not received any interesting proposals from the Western majors.

His remarks will be a disappointment to Royal Dutch Shell and a group of Dutch companies, including Gasunie, which made a presentation to the Russian Government last week on prospects in Yamal, hoping to entice Russia into using Dutch expertise and technology in the Arctic. The presentation by GasTerra, a Dutch company jointly owned by Shell, ExxonMobil and Gasunie, suggested that Yamal had 30 trillion cubic metres of gas but that its development could take half a century and cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

Speaking to The Times, Mr Medvedev, said that development in the extreme conditions of the Arctic was within Gazprom’s capabilities. “The technology is available,” he said. He suggested that the funds were not at issue. A decade ago, Gazprom was valued at $25 billion, he said, but today it is valued $300 billion. “We have money,” he said.

Access to the Russian Arctic is a key objective for Shell and BP, both companies having been forced to sell key Russian assets to Gazprom in a campaign by the Kremlin to restore to state control resources believed to have been sold on the cheap during the Yeltsin era of privatisation.

Mr Medvedev would give no comfort yesterday that Yamal would quickly follow the pattern of Shtokman. The giant Barents Sea gasfield was barred for foreign investment last year by President Putin. However, the Kremlin recently changed its mind and StatoilNorskHydro, the Norwegian oil company, and Total, of France, joined Gazprom as minority partners to develop Shtokman.

Mr Medvedev suggested yesterday that further projects with Shell would be focused on the Sakhalin region.

http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/natural_resources/article2957337.ece

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