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Monday, August 25, 2008

Putin 'backs pipe access plan'

20 August, 2008 - Upstream OnLine - Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin supports the idea of equal access to pipelines for independent gas producers along with Gazprom, anti-trust chief Igor Artemyev said today. In an interview with business daily Vedomosti, Artemyev said all the relevant agencies have approved a bill on equal access to Gazprom's pipelines for other gas producers that have long been fighting to get access to lucrative export markets. The service is going to submit the bill to the government for final approval this week and sees the chances of changes in the current system to be very high, he said. "Firstly, premier Vladimir Putin has publicly said to [Gazprom's chairman Alexei] Miller that he supported the idea. Secondly, the position of vice-premier Igor Sechin is extremely positive," Artemyev was quoted by Vedomosti as saying. Independent gas producers, which produce around 16% of all Russian gas, have long been complaining that they often have to sell the fuel to Gazprom at local prices, about five times lower than the export price which is now around $400 per 1000 cubic metres. The anti-monopoly service had earlier said that Gazprom should retain its export monopoly status but would have to buy gas for exports from independent producers on a pro-rata basis to their production. "The rules on non-discriminatory access must be accepted, all independent producers, including oil companies should have equal rights with Gazprom and its subsidiaries, all voluntary actions by Gazprom should be excluded," Artemyev said. Analysts told Reuters that the proposal, if approved, should increase gas sales revenues of independent gas producers such as Novatek and oil companies producing gas such as Lukoil, by up to 60%. Artemyev also said his agency has suggested the government should set a fair formula price at which Gazprom would buy the fuel from independent producers. "It will produce some average contract price which surely will not be $50 per Mcm," he said.

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