Russian group Gazprom is winding up the entity it created to operate the Shtokman gas field, and may set up a new company as it prepares to sign a deal that will see Royal Dutch Shell join the project, Vedomosti daily said on Tuesday.
Alexei Miller, the head of Gazprom, said the Shtokman partners will meet later this week during an economic forum in St. Petersburg for a final push aimed at reviving the project. "During the St. Petersburg economic forum we will hold final talks with the foreign partners in Shtokman project," Miller said. "Following the talks, a new agreement will be prepared, it will replace the current one, which expires on July 1."
Gazprom has a controlling stake of 51 percent in Shtokman, which has reserves of almost 4 trillion cubic metres. Norway's Statoil owns 24 percent and Total 25 percent.
The project, to extract gas from the seabed of the stormy waters of the Barents Sea, has long been delayed as the partners have not been able to agree on financing and the configuration of the venture.
It had been planned that Shtokman will pump pipeline gas in 2016 and start liquefied natural gas (LNG) production in 2017. But Gazprom has said the production of LNG only, is a likelier option.
Russian President Vladimir Putin last month urged partners in the project to make a final investment decision on its plan to extract gas from the Arctic seabed, delayed by years of talks over financing.
Vedomosti reported, citing sources, that Gazprom will dismiss the staff of Shtokman Development AG, operator of the Shtokman gas field, and could create a new company to operate the project.
It said that a new deal will be signed at the St Petersburg Economic Forum this week, adding Shell was seeking a one-quarter stake and was likely replace one of the two existing foreign investors.
Sources told Reuters last month Shell could join Shtokman in an attempt to inject new life into the venture, while another source said the future participation of Statoil was in doubt.