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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gazprom eyes bases in Norway

2009-02-17 - Barents Observer - A decision from the Shtokman Development AG to establish key project base functions along the northern Norwegian coast would finally bring Gazprom into the Norwegian oil and gas market. The recent signals from the Shtokman Development AG’s to use the Norwegian Arctic ports of Kirkenes or Hammerfest as base for the first Shtokman phase, could open a new chapter in Norwegian-Russian energy cooperation. The Shtokman Development AG is controlled by Gazprom (51%) together with Total (25%) and StatoilHydro (24%). As reported recently by BarentsObserver, the Shtokman Development AG after last week’s meeting in Murmansk indicated that it might eventually use northern Norwegian ports as bases for the development of the Shtokman project.
Relations to the test: For Norway, the Russian Shtokman project is seen as a major test for economic and industrial cooperation with Russia. The project could boost relations between the two neighbors, the main oil and gas exporters to the European market. However, the project, located near the two countries’ 175,000 square km disputed zone, could also seriously challenge relations.
Historical cooperation: Adviser in the Norwegian Barents Secretariat Oddgeir Danielsen believes the signals from the Shtokman Development AG illustrate the need for rapid port development along the Norwegian Barents Sea coast. He highlights to BarentsObserver that Gazprom should be invited to become co-owner of the bases. That would bring the Russian energy major into the Norwegian market, and help strengthen cross-border industrial cooperation, he argues. Mr. Danielsen also believes Gazprom should be invited to elaborate on plans for a pipeline system stretching from the Norwegian Barents Sea to the existing North Sea pipeline grid. So far, no Gazprom subsidiary has stakes in petroluem projects in Norway. Rune Rautio from the Rambøll Kirkenes company does not exclude that the Shtokman Development AG might take use of base services in Norway. He underlines to BarentsObserver that the progress in the Shtokman project depends on efficient base functions and that these will be vital from 2010. He doubts however that Gazprom will seek ownership in the Norwegian installations.
Time trouble: Gazprom maintains that the huge gas field in the Barents Sea will be in production from year 2013. That puts the Shtokman Development AG in time trouble. Both Russia and Norway will eventually benefit from cooperating about infrastructure and services in the Shtokman project. While Russia and Gazprom is in a hurry and in need of additional port capacities, Norway sees the Barents Sea as their strategically most important area.

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