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Putin: Russia Could Consider Liberalizing Gas Exports

Russia will look into the possibility of opening up gas pipeline exports to companies other than the current exclusive exporter—state-controlled gas giant Gazprom—Russian President Vladimir Putin told the CEO of France’s Total, Patrick Pouyanné, at an economic forum in Russia on Friday.

During the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Pouyanné asked Putin to allow a joint venture of Total and Russian gas producer Novatek to export gas from Russia via pipeline to Europe.

On the sidelines of the forum, Total and Novatek signed on Thursday an agreement outlining the terms for the French oil and gas major to buy a 10-percent direct working interest in Arctic LNG 2, a liquefied natural gas project lead by Novatek on the Gydan Peninsula in the north of Siberia, whose final investment decision is expected in 2019.

Total also has a 20-percent stake in Novatek’s Yamal LNG project which began exporting LNG in late 2017.

While Russia is expanding its LNG capacities, pipeline gas exports are currently the exclusive right of Gazprom, which holds around one-third of the European gas market.

Gazprom dodged a fine yesterday in the settlement of the seven-year-long antitrust dispute with the European Union (EU), after the Russian gas giant agreed to change market behavior and ensure competitive gas prices in Central and Eastern Europe. The European Commission (EC) imposed on Thursday legally binding obligations on Gazprom to address competition concerns and enable free flow of gas at competitive prices.

Related: Pacific Island Seeks Better Deal With Exxon On LNG Expansion

During the forum in St. Petersburg today, Putin also said that he is not planning to cut off the transit of Russian gas to Europe via Ukraine and was ready to talk to Ukraine on the issue that has been straining the energy relations between the two countries.

In addition, Putin also noted that France’s Total and other companies would be welcome to join the controversial Gazprom-led Nord Stream 2 project for a gas pipeline between Russia and Germany via the Baltic Sea, which has become the center of heated debates between Russia, the U.S., and EU officials lately.

Nord Stream 2 AG currently has financing agreements for the project with European companies ENGIE, OMV, Shell, Uniper, and Wintershall.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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