MOSCOW, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- The Russian government said gas company Gazprom will keep its hold on pipeline exports but the market for liquefied natural gas is now liberalized.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the deal Monday to break Gazprom's monopoly on natural gas exports, state news agency RIA Novosti reported. The law gives independent natural gas producer Novatek and state-owned oil company Rosneft room to develop LNG facilities that could serve a growing Asian market for natural gas.
Gazprom owns the only functioning LNG operation in Russia, situated on Sakhalin Island in the Far East. Novatek is working alongside French energy company Total and China National Petroleum Corp. on a $20 billion LNG project on the Yamal Peninsula in the arctic north. Rosneft has plans for its own Far East LNG terminal, the Russian report said.
None of the companies mentioned in the RIA Novosti report issued public comments about the monopoly-breaking measure. Most, however, already have long-term LNG shipping contracts on their books.
Russia is the world's largest natural gas supplier and has courted Asian countries, which are starting to demand more natural gas to meet the needs of their expanding economies.