Gazprom could snub US partners

24-08-2006

Gazprom could rebuff US companies keen to help develop its $20 billion (£10.7 billion) gas field in the Arctic Circle.

Reports suggest that the Russian gas giant is in talks with BG Group and US Sempra about exploring the Shtokman project.

There is already a shortlist of five companies including US oil giants ConocoPhillips and Chevron hoping to get the nod from Gazprom.

But it is understood that political wrangling over Russia's membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) could lead to Gazprom snubbing the US firms in favour of a deal with the UK-based BG Group.

"The important difference of Sempra and BG from the five bidders is that they don't want stakes in Shtokman but are prepared to simply work with our gas," a spokesman for Gazprom told the Reuters news agency.

State-controlled Gazprom is the world's largest gas producer and has come to increasing prominence as western economies, including the UK, become more reliant on gas imports.

There has been concern that Russia will use its reserves of gas and oil to further its wider diplomatic agenda starting with membership of the WTO.

President Putin has stated on a number of occasions that Russia will be a reliable energy supplier, but incidents like the dispute with Ukraine earlier this year have cast doubts over that claim.

Gazprom meanwhile, is said to be keen on expanding into the European energy market and has been linked with a takeover bid for Centrica, which owns British Gas.


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