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Russian energy giant Gazprom [RTS: GAZP] has requested the government's permission
Russian energy giant Gazprom [RTS: GAZP] has requested the government's permission to prospect three natural gas blocks of the Sakhalin III project in the Far East, a company official said on Thursday.

"We would like to resolve the issue of allowing geological prospecting at the Ayashsky, Odoptinsky and Kirinsky blocks of the Sakhalin III project by the end of the first quarter," Alexander Ananenkov, deputy chairman of Gazprom's management committee, said at a meeting in Khabarovsk chaired by Board Chairman Dmitry Medvedev.

Ananenkov said the Kirinsky block had probable natural gas reserves of 930 billion cubic meters, while the Ayashsky and Odoptinsky deposits had reserves of 400 billion cubic meters.

The Sakhalin-III oil and gas project's estimated reserves in the Sea of Okhotsk total over 800 million metric tons (5.86 billion bbl) of oil and more than 900 billion cubic meters of gas. The project includes the East-Odoptinsky, Ayashsky, Venin and South-Kirinsky blocks.

State-controlled oil company Rosneft holds a license to develop the Venin block off Sakhalin Island. It holds a 49.8% in the block's operator, Venineft. The region's Sakhalin Oil Company and China's Sinopec each own 25.1%.

U.S. companies Mobil, Texaco, and Exxon won a tender for licenses on the three remaining blocks of the field in 1993 under a production-sharing agreement (PSA), but the Russian government annulled the results of the tender in 2004, citing changes in tax laws on PSAs.

At a government session held on June 15, 2007, Gazprom requested that the government transfer to it the licenses for Sakhalin-III deposits without competitive bidding.

Gazprom plans in April-May 2008 to sign an agreement with Exxon Neftegas Limited, a subsidiary of U.S. oil major ExxonMobil, which operates the Sakhalin I project on Sakhalin's northeastern shelf, on buying the project's natural gas for gas supplies to Russian regions.

The Sakhalin I project has estimates reserves of 500 billion cubic meters, with the capacity to produce about 11 billion cubic meters annually, Ananenkov said, adding that the energy giant wanted to purchase the entire natural gas output under the project.

Ananenkov said the demand of Russia's Far Eastern regions for natural gas would total 25 billion cubic meters by 2020.

"We see a shortage of reserves under Sakhalin projects. Even the purchase of the entire gas output under the Sakhalin I project will not resolve the problem completely by 2015-2020," Ananenkov said.


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