Russia and China deepen energy cooperation

Sept. 21, 2010 at 3:48 PM
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TIANJIN, China, Sept. 21 (UPI) -- Russia and China, Eurasia's rising regional powers, are deepening their energy cooperation.

Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said Tuesday that the countries are discussing the January-June 2011 price for Russian natural gas exports to China, telling journalists, "Detailed results will be evident in the beginning of 2011."

Russia's state-owned natural gas monopoly Gazprom Deputy Chief Executive Officer Aleksandr Medvedev commented that current negotiations will determine volumes, time frames and prices, Itar-Tass reported.

Echoing his colleague's comments, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan said while co-chairman of the sixth round of the Sino-Russian energy negotiators' meetings with Sechin in Tianjin that Sino-Russian energy cooperation enjoyed "broad prospects," adding, "All-around and deep energy cooperation between the two countries will be of strategic significance."

The discussions included not only Russian supplies of natural gas to China but also oil, nuclear power, electric power and coal cooperation. According to Wang, Chinese and Russian leaders see great importance in bilateral energy cooperation and the two sides have made great strides in their planned cooperation. On a political level, the latest round of meetings could underpin Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's upcoming visit to China.

Following the meetings the Chinese and Russian participants signed three energy cooperation documents that ranged beyond oil and natural gas agreements to include coal and coal gasification cooperation. After the sessions Wang and Sechin participated in a foundation-laying ceremony for the China-Russia Eastern Petrochemical Oil Refinery in Tianjin.

In a concrete sign of the increased cooperation between the two nations, last month Russia officially launched its section of an oil pipeline to deliver east Siberian oil to China, with the facility projected to come online by the end of the year. The new pipeline is the result of a February 2009 bilateral project, under which China granted Russia a $25 billion long-term loan. In return, Russia agreed to supply Beijing with 300 million tons of oil via pipelines annually during the period 2011-30.

The China-Pacific pipeline is Russia's most important energy project since the beginning of construction of its Nord Stream natural gas pipeline to Europe, scheduled to begin operations next year.

Like Nord Steam, Russia's new pipeline to China means that Russia's strategic influence is increasing in new areas and that Moscow's importance as a major energy supplier to China has been considerably augmented, increasing potential Russian influence over Beijing.

Russian Prime Minister Putin had praised the Siberian oil pipeline to China as an important counterweight to its traditional European clients. Last month China consumed an estimated 35.54 million metric tons of oil, 7.6 percent more than the same period a year ago.

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