Monday, 15 February 2010

US shale creates Gazprom rivalry

Gazprom has been flaunting its growth prospects as the world exits the crisis but its expansion plans could be held back by competition from the United States.Russia's state gas giant has said it will double its exports to non-former Soviet Union countries by 2030 and increase its share of the European market from one-quarter to 32 per cent by 2020.
Analysts say that these targets are not overly ambitious and should be achieved with the infrastructure the company is planning to develop.
It is a question of capturing the market with increased competition from the US and new supplies in Europe," said Artem Konchin, an oil and gas analyst at Unicredit.
US shale gas is providing the greatest threat to Gazprom's targets, with output expected to quadruple by 2015. Increased production and a worldwide collapse in energy demand in the wake of the crisis have led to a "gas glut", but Gazprom believes it can use this as an opportunity to power the economic recovery.
"The majority of European countries' economies will be focused on the use of natural gas in great volumes for industrial needs, which [will] more and more supercede other energy sources," Gazprom said in an e-mailed statement.
Some analysts warn, however, that the development of shale gas and LNG could see Europe lessen its dependence on Russia's vast energy reserves."If European producers reach half the speed of their US counterparts, the mid-term incremental demand will be met by European unconventional gas and the other half by LNG," said Mikhail Korchemkin, director of East European Gas Analysis.
Meanwhile, Gazprom deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev has dismissed the emerging threat of shale gas, describing it as "a danger to drinking water" that will be banned in the EU.Regardless of any ban in Europe, Asia is likely to become the key battleground with its higher potential for growth, particularly in China.
"Asian demand is likely to grow quicker, but unfortunately negotiations with China are not progressing as quickly as hoped," said Konchin. A lack of infrastructure will also hold up Gazprom's claims to the Asian market, but the firm says it has investments in the pipeline and its location will give it a head start.
"[The Asian market] is one of the most promising," said Gazprom. "It is connected with the development of a powerful market in Asia and has the large resource centres of Russia in immediate proximity."
Here, both Gazprom and the US are likely to come into conflict with Asia's biggest supplier, Qatar, where US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held talks with the country's leader, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, over the weekend.
While discussions focused on peace issues in the Middle East, oil and gas were also thought to be on the agenda.
"[The US targeting Asia] would effectively mean that Qatari gas would not flow to Asia," said Viktor Mishnyakov, oil and gas analyst at Uralsib, adding that the Middle Eastern country would be unlikely to agree to any American proposals on this.

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