MOSCOW, May 21 (UPI) -- Russia will send natural gas to China as early as 2018, with initial volumes of 1.3 trillion cubic feet per year, Russia's energy minister said Wednesday.
Energy Minister Alexander Novak confirmed from Moscow a bilateral deal between Gazprom and China National Petroleum was signed in Beijing in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
First deliveries from a 30-year contract valued at $400 billion would start with the delivery of 1.3 trillion cubic feet through a Russian gas pipeline to China as early as 2018, the minister said.
Gazprom has sought entrance into the growing Asian market in an effort to diversify an asset base tied to a European economy still struggling to grow. Ongoing disputes over gas debt in Ukraine, which transports the bulk of Russian gas supplies to Europe, adds another layer of risk to Gazprom's consumer foundation.
Leonid Slutsky, the director of regional affairs in Russia's State Duma, told state news agency RIA Novosti the gas deal was one of many on the table for Putin during his visit.
"Sino-Russian cooperation is one of the centers of gravity of the world economic architecture of the 21st century," he said.