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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Russia, Iran, Qatar consider gas production, liquefying JV

MOSCOW, November 12, 2008 (RIA Novosti) - Russia, Iran and Qatar, leading natural gas producers that are set to meet on Wednesday for cooperation talks, plan to set up a joint venture to produce, liquefy and sell gas, a Russian business daily said on Tuesday. Kommersant cited a Russian government official as saying the "gas troika" would build a pipeline to pump gas from Iran's South Pars deposit, the world's largest with reserves estimated at 14 trillion cubic meters, to an LNG plant in Qatar. Analysts expect the project to be worth at least $4 billion. Each country could have 30% in the project, and the other 10% could go to China or South Korea, the paper said, citing analysts. Analysts say Qatar's participation could reduce the political risks of selling Iranian gas, the paper reported. "The infrastructure to produce gas at South Pars, a pipeline on the Persian Gulf floor linking to Qatar's Ras Laffan province [100-150 km from the deposit] and an LNG plant there are planned to be built as part of the project," an unidentified Russian government official told the daily. A source in the Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom confirmed the plans to the paper, adding that "the fourth participant in the project will be picked depending on the sales market." Analysts quoted by the paper said China, with which Qatar has signed a deal to supply 7 million metric tons of LNG a year, and South Korea, which has increased consumption of liquefied gas recently, are the most likely candidates. Kommersant said its sources had not given specific figures, but Valery Nesterov of Troika Dialog investment company told the paper the project would be worth at least $4 billion. Gazprom, which has already been engaged in the development of South Pars's second and third stages, could now receive revenue from exporting the gas, which Iran had not previously allowed, the paper said. Energy cooperation with Iran could be risky due to U.S. sanctions, while sales from Qatar would allow a change in Iranian gas's "citizenship," East European Gas Analysis Director Mikhail Korchemkin was quoted by the paper as saying. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin moved on Tuesday to ease fears over the planned talks in Doha, saying the three countries do not plan to create a gas cartel. "We are aware of the concerns and fears expressed by some energy consumers. There are absolutely no grounds for such fears. We are not establishing a cartel, nor are we striking any cartel deals," Putin said. Russia, Iran, and Qatar - ranked first, second and third respectively in terms of global gas reserves - formed the "gas troika", agreeing to boost coordination in the sphere, at their meeting in Tehran in October. The decision sparked fears among consumers that the countries plan to create an OPEC-style gas cartel and will control prices. Europe feared Russia would expand its influence on energy markets via the cartel.
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