Russia plans sharp boost in energy exports to Asia

Moscow, February 22:

Russia plans a sharp increase in exports of oil and natural gas to the Asia-Pacific region over the next 14 years to meet soaring demand, industry and energy minister Viktor Khristenko said.

“Asian countries will consume more and more energy” in the foreseeable future while Western countries will continue seeking to regulate or cut back on energy consumption, Khristenko said in an interview with the government daily Rossiikaya Gazeta. “For this reason, we plan to sharply reorient the volume of oil and gas exports to the countries of the Asia-Pacific region by the year 2020,” said Khristenko, adding that Russia was a ‘natural partner’ for the countries of the region due to its unique geographical position.

A surging appetite in Asia for oil and gas will also spur demand for hydroelectric power and atomic energy, he said, and Russia was interested in taking part in development of these sectors in Asia. His comments came less than a week after prime minister Mikhail Fradkov said in Hanoi that Russia was ready to help build a major dam project and a nuclear power plant in Vietnam.

Rossiiskaya Gazeta commented that Vietnam is increasingly described in Moscow as Russia’s ‘gateway’ to the flourishing markets of southeast Asia. Khristenko said development of huge oil and gas deposits on the Sakhalin shelf and near the Kamchatka peninsula, along with new petroleum resources in eastern Siberia, was being implemented with a view to long-term supply to Asian consumers.

The Kremlin has over the past year stressed the strategic importance Moscow attaches to developing its commercial and political positions in the Asia-Pacific region. In December, president Vladimir Putin attended as a guest the inaugural East Asian Summit, a new body grouping of the ASEAN along with other big players.