India seeks more access to Siberia fields

Dec. 16, 2011 at 6:27 AM
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NEW DELHI, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- India says it is seeking a greater share of Russia's Siberian energy resources during meetings between the two countries' leaders in Moscow.

Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters Wednesday in New Delhi that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's three-day trip to Russia – which concludes Saturday -- would include discussions on energy issues with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev.

Mathai also said the summit is coming as Indian state-run explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corp., or OVL, is negotiating with Russian energy companies Rosneft and Novatek to expand its presence in the Siberian oil and gas fields, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Drawing New Delhi's interest is the Sakhalin-3 project, a 2,000-square-mile block on the Sakhalin shelf of the Sea of Okhotsk in eastern Siberia. Rosneft has joined with China's Sinopec in the exploration of Sakhalin-3's Veninsky licensed block, one of four blocks in the project.

The largest block, the South-Kirinsky structure, has reserves estimated at 700 million tons of hydrocarbons. Russian officials have said Sakhalin-3 will be capable of producing 15 million-20 million tons of oil and condensate and 45 billion-60 billion cubic meters of gas annually over an extended period.

OVL has a 20 percent stake in the Sakhalin-1 oil and gas field, which is operated by Exxon Mobil.

Mathai didn't indicate whether OVL and Rosneft would sign any deals during Singh's Moscow visit, the Journal reported.

"OVL is keen to get involved in the development of Sakhalin-3 and they are in discussions with Rosneft for this," he said. "OVL is also in talks with Novatek to access gas deposits in the Yamal Peninsula in the northeastern Siberian region."

OVL Managing Director Joeman Thomas revealed in May that his company, along with GAIL India and Petronet LNG Ltd., were planning to submit a non-binding bid for less than a 20 percent stake in the Yamal liquefied natural gas project, The Times of India said.

The independent Russian producer Novatek says it will complete the Yamal LNG plant in 2016, promising an annual production of 15 million tons of liquefied gas.

Another topic of discussion at the Russia-India summit will be Russian taxes on OVL's Imperial Energy subsidiary in western Siberia, which the Indian company acquired in 2009.

New Delhi says the tax burden has meant OVL can't expand its exploration in the field, the Journal reported.

"The matter hasn't been finally settled and will continue to be raised and discussed with the Russian side," Mathai said.

The foreign secretary also said Singh could discuss the possibility of routing payments for the crude oil it buys from Iran through Russia rather through Turkey as is now the case, the Indian business newspaper Mint reported.

Not likely to be consummated during Singh's trip to Moscow, however, is a deal to construct two nuclear more power reactors at Kudankulam in India's Tamil Nadu state, the publication said.

Under a 1998 agreement, Russia is building two 1,000-megawatt atomic power units at Kudankulam. Moscow reportedly wants the same terms for the two new reactors.

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