MOSCOW (AP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his blessing on Monday to a plan to invest tens of billions of dollars to tap a new natural gas field in Siberia and build a new pipeline to the nation's Pacific coast for exports to Asia.
Putin met Monday with Alexei Miller, the CEO of state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom, who briefed him on prospects of tapping the giant Chaynda deposit in the Yakutia region. Miller said the field is estimated to hold 1.2 trillion cubic meters of gas.
He said Gazprom plans to build a 3,200-kilometer (2,000-mile) pipeline linking the field with Russia's Pacific port of Vladivostok. Miller said Gazprom would need to invest 430 billion rubles ($13.7 billion) to develop the field and 770 billion rubles ($24.4 billion) to build the pipeline by 2017.
Gazprom is planning to build a liquefied natural gas plant in the Vladivostok region for exports to Pacific nations.
"In the near future, we will be able to build new gas export capacities which would be comparable to or, perhaps, even exceeding gas supplies to Europe," Miller said.
As part of its eastward expansion, Gazprom is also planning to build a Pacific-bound pipeline from another giant Siberian field, Kovykta, which is estimated to hold 2.5 trillion cubic meters of gas, he said.
Putin and Gazprom chiefs long have talked about plans to diversify Russia's energy exports by shifting them to Asian markets. The bulk of Gazprom's exports now go to the European Union, which relies on Russia for more than two fifths of its gas imports.
But the Russian gas monopoly has faced a growing pressure in Europe because of the availability of liquefied natural gas from North Africa and the production of shale gas in the United States which have driven down world prices on spot markets and inspired some European countries to explore for their own shale gas.
Moscow also has been annoyed by an EU investigation launched in September, which is to determine whether Gazprom violated competition rules by linking the prices of gas and oil. The Russian gas behemoth would face hefty fines if found guilty.
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