MOSCOW, June 19 (UPI) -- The first welds of a pipeline meant to deliver Russian natural gas to China should be set within the next two months, the chairman of Gazprom said.
Gazprom said it planned to start delivering large-diameter pipes for what it's calling the Power of Siberia natural gas pipeline to China in July.
The Russian energy company said it started working on the infrastructure necessary for the pipeline almost immediately after signing a contract for gas to China in May.
The contract between Gazprom and China National Petroleum Corp. is for 30 years and calls for 1.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year.
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.
First deliveries from the contract valued at $400 billion could start as early as 2018.