OAO Gazprom expects the Sakhalin-2 venture to produce enough fuel to support the expansion of Russia’s only liquefied natural gas plant as its partner Royal Dutch Shell Plc seeks resources outside the project.
The partners plan to extend the Piltun-Astokhskoye field to feed Sakhalin-2’s liquefied natural gas plant, Vsevolod Cherepanov, head of Gazprom’s gas, condensate and oil production department, told reporters today in St. Petersburg. Additional volumes from producing fields may feed the plant’s expansion or be shipped via the Gazprom-owned pipeline network, he said.
There will be enough gas for a third LNG train “if there is such a will,” Cherepanov said. The project’s two LNG units, called trains, are working at their full capacity, producing more than 9.6 million metric tons of liquid fuel a year.
Shell has been pushing to add a third LNG production unit at the $22 billion Sakhalin-2 venture north of Japan as the Hague-based producer seeks to boost gas production worldwide. Gazprom hasn’t yet agreed as it tries to balance its obligations to supply gas domestically against the attractiveness of exports to Asia’s growing markets.
Cameron in Moscow
Expansion of the LNG plant, which was designed to accommodate a third unit, was on the agenda for talks between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron in Moscow earlier this week. Shell Chief Executive Officer Peter Voser met with his Gazprom counterpart Alexei Miller yesterday, the Russian company said in a statement.
Producing gas at the southern part of Piltun-Astokhskoye, one of the two offshore fields that feed the plant, may be challenging as it lies under layers of oil and condensate, Cherepanov said. Gazprom, Shell and its partners in Sakhalin-2 Mitsubishi Corp. and Mitsui & Co. will seek to develop the extension as “the next stage,” boosting profitability, Cherepanov said.
Output at the Lunskoye field may be increased, a Kremlin official said ahead of Cameron’s visit.
The two producing fields may boost output by 4 billion cubic meters a year for as long as five years, Cherepanov said. The additional gas may be supplied to the LNG plant or into the pipeline system to supply to domestic consumers, he said. That volume would be sufficient for about 3 million metric tons of LNG, while the additional LNG unit may have a capacity to produce almost 5 million tons.
“Sources of supply will be discussed by Gazprom and Shell as part of a protocol signed in November 2010,” Vera Surzhenko, a spokeswoman for Shell in Russia, said by phone today. They will include existing fields and potentially new fields, she said.
Gazprom and Shell in November agreed to expand cooperation in Russia and abroad. Shell may offer Gazprom assets in Asia in exchange for a deal to expand Sakhalin-2, people with knowledge of the negotiations said in February.
Gazprom last week opened a domestic pipeline from Sakhalin Island to the port city of Vladivostok on Russia’s Pacific coast under government orders to build pipelines and supply gas to Russia’s infrastructure-poor eastern regions.
Output from Gazprom’s Kirinskoye field, part of the neighboring Sakhalin-3 project, will be the main field feeding the link after production starts next year. Reserves at Yuzhno-Kirinskoye, also part of Sakhalin-3, may rise by as much as 100 billion cubic meters to 360 billion cubic meters this year after new exploration data, Cherepanov said.
Shell looked at Gazprom’s nearby Sakhalin-3 development for reserves on concerns the Sakhalin-2 fields may not be sufficient for the expansion. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin invited Shell to participate in Sakhalin-3 during a meeting in 2009 with outgoing CEO Jeroen van der Veer and his replacement Voser. Gazprom has since said it wants to develop Sakhalin-3 without foreign partners.
Gazprom, Russia’s biggest gas producer and export monopoly, agreed in 2006 to buy just more than 50 percent of the Sakhalin-2 venture for $7.45 billion. Shell controls 27.5 percent of the Sakhalin Energy Investment Co. operator, and Mitsubishi and Mitsui hold the balance.