July 19 (UPI) -- Russian energy company Novatek said Thursday it shipped its first batch of liquefied natural gas to China using a so-called Northern Sea Route.
The northern passageway is a shipping lane in Russia's economic zone that runs along the Arctic coast to the Bering Strait. Novatek said it shipped its first cargos of LNG from its northern Yamal project to China using the route. The shipment took 19 days, compared to 35 days using a traditional shipping lane.
"This voyage begins a new era of Russian LNG shipments to meet the growing natural gas demands of the Asian-Pacific markets using the Northern Sea Route of the Arctic Ocean," Leonid Mickhelson, the chairman of Novatek's board, said in a statement.
The Yamal LNG project has the capacity to produce about 16.5 million tons of natural gas, and exports could target consumers in the Far East. Up to 16 ice-class carriers could be designated to ship LNG year-round to global consumers from the far north Kara Sea.
The first train, the facility that converts gas to the liquid form, went into production last year. Two more trains will be in service by 2019.
Russia meets about a quarter of the European energy demand, but has at times focused its economic efforts on the expanding economies in Asia.
Russian natural gas company 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 Power of Siberia pipeline. The Kremlin described the 2,500-mile network as a way to tie the Russian energy sector to two poles of the economic world.
China holds a minority stake in the LNG facility on the Yamal Peninsula in Russia, alongside French energy company Total and Novatek, the largest private natural gas company in Russia.