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Gazprom targets U.K., Italy, Turkey

Gazprom said Tuesday it planned to boost long-term and spot sales to Europe in 2003, more actively tapping markets in Britain, Italy, Turkey and the Netherlands.

The company, which supplies Europe with one-quarter of its gas needs, said progress had been made but a few problems remained in its talks with the European Union over Gazprom's long-term sales in Europe's gradually liberalizing gas market.

Gazprom also said it would try to purchase and resell more gas from the energy-rich but landlocked Central Asian states in order to postpone costly development of its own Arctic fields.

"We shall increase the volume of spot sales to Britain, although long-term contracts remain our priority," Gazprom deputy chairman Yury Komarov, the company's chief export strategist, told a news conference.

"For spot sales in Europe, Britain is the main market, possibly Belgium. We are working on similar options with Norway and France," he said, without elaborating.

He said Gazprom's exports under long-term deals would rise to 134 billion cubic meters in 2003 from 129.5 bcm in 2002, with Germany and Italy remaining the largest buyers among 20 European states taking Russian gas.

Export sales would bring in $13 billion to $13.5 billion next year, up from $12.8 billion this year.

Separately, Gazprom will sell 3 bcm on the British spot market in 2003. That will be up from 2 bcm this year, including 1 bcm sold through the U.K.-Belgium Interconnector pipeline and 1 bcm physically remaining in continental Europe but swapped against North Sea volumes produced for Britain.

Komarov said Gazprom has reserved 2.15 bcm annually in the Interconnector link from 2006, when Britain is expected to become a net gas importer and the pipe's annual capacity will be widened from 8 bcm to 16 bcm. Gazprom currently holds an annual quota of 0.85 bcm in the Interconnector link, in which it owns 10 percent.

Komarov said the Blue Stream link, the world's deepest underwater pipeline aimed at carrying gas to Turkey along the Black Sea bed, would be launched before the end of this year.

"Next year, Blue Stream will deliver 2 bcm of gas, and each year deliveries will [rise] another 2 bcm," he said.

The $3.5 billion project, developed with Italian energy group ENI since 1999, was first planned to go on stream by October 2001, but the date was postponed several times due to financial and logistical problems. "The Turkish economic situation is quite difficult," Komarov said. "They need additional volumes of gas anyway, although we have always said that their gas demand has been overestimated."

He said Gazprom, which already supplies Turkey with 12 bcm of gas via an onshore pipeline through Bulgaria, has never agreed to cut gas prices or supply volumes via the Blue Stream.

(The Moscow Times 25.xii.02)

 
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