MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s Gazprom (GAZP.MM) said on Wednesday that it would review the composition of the consortium to develop the Shtokman offshore gas field next month, further heightening uncertainty over the project’s future.
“The project is being reviewed at the moment. A decision on members and the scheme is expected in June,” Vitaly Markelov, Gazprom’s deputy CEO, told a briefing.
Gazprom sources said that there could be a departure from Shtokman, where the Russian gas giant has partnered with Statoil STL.OL of Norway and Total (TOTF.PA) of France.
Total owns 25 percent, Statoil 24 percent and Gazprom the remainder of Shtokman, one of the world’s largest gas fields with reserves of 3.7 trillion cubic meters located 550 kilometers (340 miles) offshore in the freezing waters of the Barents Sea.
Industry sources in Moscow say all existing tenders have been cancelled and the corporate structure, Shtokman Development AG, downsized, potentially leaving room for a fresh start on determining how the project is run.
The project has been mired in prolonged and painstaking talks over investments, timing and configuration. It is thought that the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in June, where Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to give a keynote speech, will be the venue for the consortium to announce a new approach to developing the project.
The gas from the field had previously been earmarked for the United States, but booming North American shale gas production forced the consortium to scrap its plans and look for other markets.
Sagging demand for gas in debt-stricken Europe, Gazprom’s key source of revenues, also caused Shtokman to consider dropping plans for pipeline gas and instead focus solely on the production of liquefied natural gas.
Last month Statoil’s chief executive Helge Lund said he hoped cutting out the pipeline element of the project could bring down the overall capital cost.
Reporting by Denis Pinchuk, writing by Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Douglas Busvine and Keiron Henderson