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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

U.S. court rejects U.S. company's claim against Gazprom

  MOSCOW, March 22 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's natural gas monopolist said Wednesday that a Texas court had granted its petition to throw out a claim filed against it by U.S.-based oil company Moncrief Oil International. American billionaire Richard Moncrief, president of Moncrief Oil International, filed the lawsuit in a Texas court against Gazprom, demanding that it either return the right to develop the Yuzhno-Russkoye gas field in Russia or pay several billion dollars as compensation for lost profits. "The court ruled that it had no jurisdiction over Gazprom," a company source said. The Yuzhno-Russkoye gas field, with estimated recoverable reserves of 700 billion cubic meters, is to be the main source of natural gas supplies along the North European Gas Pipeline, set to run under the Baltic Sea to Germany. In the late 1990s Moncrief had signed an agreement with Vladimir Nikiforov, then the director-general of regional energy producer Zapsibgazprom, to set up a joint venture to develop the Yuzhno-Russkoye deposit in the northern Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area. Moncrief pledged to invest about $1 billion in the project. In 1999, a different company, Severneftegazprom, was established to develop Yuzhno-Russkoye. But in 2001 it emerged that Severneftegazprom was controlled by structures that had close ties to Russia's no.1 independent gas producer, Itera, while Zapsibgazprom was already controlled by Yukos. These companies said that they did not have any dealings with Moncrief over the gas field. By the end of 2002, Gazprom had regained 85% of Zapsibgazprom and control over the license to develop Yuzhno-Russkoye. However, it was not until July 2004 that the company management learned of Moncrief's interest in the deposit.

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