Gazprom weighing its European options

Russian energy company under pressure from European concerns of over-reach.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   March 30, 2016 at 7:30 AM
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PARIS, March 30 (UPI) -- Paris hosted a delegation of Russian energy officials to review French natural gas needs and prospects for pipeline development, Gazprom said.

Gazprom Chairman Alexei Miller led the delegation to meet with French Economic Minister Emmanuel Macron and top administration officials to review cooperation in the natural gas sector. Miller in a statement said "since the beginning of the year Russian gas exports to France have grown by almost 2.8 million cubic feet, which is more than one and a half times higher compared to the previous year."

Gazprom has in the past worked closely with French energy company ENGIE, formerly known as GDF Suez. Both companies are partners in the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline running through the Baltic Sea to European shores. Gazprom said expanding that pipeline was on the agenda during the talks in Paris.

Miller in September signed a shareholder agreement on the development of the second phase of the twin Nord Stream pipeline system with his counterparts at German energy companies BASF and E.ON, as well as those from French company ENGIE, Austria's OMV and Royal Dutch Shell.

Under the proposed expansion, two more lines would be added to the existing network running to the German coast, roughly doubling the pipeline's net capacity.

The European Union has expressed concern about Russia's control over the regional market as the company typically controls both the transit networks and the reserves they deliver. The European Commission earlier this month said it supported the Finnish government's plans to grant $31.5 million to build a terminal for liquefied natural gas. By ending energy isolation for Baltic states, the European body said the strategy is in line with regional efforts to improve energy security. Finland relies almost entirely on Russia for natural gas.

In a separate statement, Gazprom said it signed a deal with Belgian company Fluxys to help advance small-scale LNG projects in the European market.

"By developing this segment, Gazprom will further diversify its export potential and increase sustainable supplies of energy to Europe," Gazprom Deputy Chairman Alexander Medvedev said.

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