Putin pledges to unblock Russia LNG to tackle Asia demand

Reuters

* Putin confirms Russia plans to liberalise LNG exports

* Voices support for Novatek, Gazprom projects

* Russia seeks Asia-Pacific markets as European demandstalls

NUSA DUA, Indonesia, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Russia will pressahead with opening up its exports of liquefied natural gas in amove to meet the growing demand from Asia-Pacific markets,President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.

Putin stressed Russia's importance as the world's biggestenergy supplier is keen to expand in the region, where gasdemand is driven by China, which expects to consume up to 230billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas by 2015.

"We realise our responsibility in this sector, and thereforeare planning to expand our energy cooperation with our Asianpartners," he told businessmen at the Asian-Pacific EconomicCooperation summit in the Indonesian island of Bali.

"We... will make a step towards liberalisation of liquefiednatural gas trade in the nearest future."

Removing restrictions on LNG exports from Russia is seen asa big blow to state-controlled giant Gazprom whichcontrols a monopoly on exports of all natural gas under a lawpassed in 2006.

It will on the other hand strengthen Gazprom's competitorsaspiring to cash in on booming Asia-Pacific energy demand.

Putin said the liberalisation plan will accommodate bothGazprom and Novatek, in a sign the Kremlin is seekinga compromise decision in the strategic energy sector.

"We support the projects... run by Novatek, we will alsosupport the projects of our main gas producing and exportingcompany - Gazprom," he said.

Novatek and Russia's top oil producer Rosneft haveboth lobbied for LNG export rights, with the latter agreeingwith ExxonMobil to build an LNG plant in the Russian FarEast at an estimated cost of $15 billion.

Currently, only one LNG export terminal is operating inRussia - the 10 million tonnes per year Sakhalin-2 project builtby Shell that is now majority owned by Gazprom.

China's LNG imports rose 20 percent to 14.7 million tonnesin 2012 from the previous year, customs data has shown. Thatwould be equivalent to about 20.3 billion cubic metres (bcm), or14 percent of China's total gas demand last year at 147 bcm.

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