March 21 (UPI) -- Natural gas from basins in southeastern Siberia could start moving through a natural gas pipeline to China within the next five years, Gazprom said.
Representatives from Russian natural gas company Gazprom discussed the development of the Kovyktinskoye field with officials from the Irkutsk region in southeastern Siberia. Gazprom said the field is unique given its larger volume of estimated gas reserves and efforts are underway for broader development.
"Efforts are being made to design the site structures and facilities for production purposes, along with gas transmission capacities," the Russian gas company said in a statement. "It is planned to start feeding gas from Kovyktinskoye into the Power of Siberia gas pipeline in late 2022, with a section of the pipeline to be laid in the Irkutsk region."
Gazprom has a 30-year sales agreement with China National Petroleum Corp. that calls for 1.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year through the pipeline. The Kremlin described the 2,500-mile Power of Siberia as a way to tie the Russian energy sector to two poles of the economic world.
About 850 miles of the gas pipeline to China will have been completed so far.
Russia meets about a quarter of the European energy demand, but has at times focused its economic efforts on the expanding economies in Asia.
China already holds a minority stake in a liquefied natural gas facility on the Yamal Peninsula in Russia, alongside French energy company Total and Novatek, the largest private natural gas company in Russia.
It could also become one of the major shareholders in Transneft, a state-backed oil pipeline company in Russia.
China, the second-largest economy in the world behind the United States, reported in January that gross domestic product expanded 6.9 percent from 2016, beating expectations by about 0.2 percent. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, it's the first time annual growth has improved in seven years.