"Choosing between 154 billion cubic metres (cm) at a lower price and 150 billion cm at a higher price, we choose to export 150 billion,” Alexander Medvedev, Gazprom's deputy CEO, was quoted as saying by Russian news media.
Gazprom previously forecast its exports to Europe would grow 2.6% to 154 billion cubic metres, with the price up to $415 (€317) per thousand cubic metres from current $384 (€293).
Medvedev pointed out the 150 billion cm is a minimum level of supply in terms of Gazprom’s long-term contracts.
Most of the Gazprom long-term contracts include a "take-or-pay" clause, according to which a country pays, even if it doesn't import the contracted amount of gas. The European Commission has complained that EU countries negotiate gas imports from Russia bilaterally, hoping to get a better deal, to the detriment of a common European effort to find agreement on energy issues with Russia.
"I am sure volumes will be at last year's level and probably even more," Medvedev said. “Even if we export 150 billion cm, the revenues will not decline," he said.
Gazprom’s share at the European market grew to 27% in 2011 from 23% in 2010. The company expects to boost its share up to 30% by 2020. But the excess of gas on the world market and uneven gas demand in winter make forecasts difficult (see background).
The Russian gas export monopoly is at odds with the European Union energy policy known as the Third Energy Package, which aims at separating energy production from distribution. Gazprom is involved in both transmission of energy and its production.
"Recent negotiations made clear that there is light at the end of the tunnel," said Medvedev. "I hope it won’t die out and would be able to carry on our projects," he added.
Taking example on Norway, Gazprom has been calling for special status to be granted to its gas pipeline network in Europe. The European Commission said recently that Russia could in theory request an exemption from the Third Energy Package for building the South Stream pipeline, but added that such a request was premature, as the EU executive has not yet seen any blueprint for the project.
Pipeline project from Shtokman to be shelved?
According to analysts, Gazprom is a poor developer and in spite of the country's rich gas deposits, it struggles with its goal of expanding production.
Reuters quoted Gazprom's Medvedev as hinting that Gazprom may ditch plans to pipe Arctic gas from its Shtokman project, raising doubts about Russia's reliability as a long-term major supplier given rising demand for gas in Asian markets.
Instead, Gazprom may prefer focusing on producing more easily transportable liquefied natural gas at the Barents Sea deposit, Reuters quoted Medvedev as saying on 7 April. This is the first time the company has mentioned such an option.
Shtokman's gas reserves are estimated at 3.9 trillion cubic metres, enough to meet a year's global consumption and making it potentially the world's 10th largest field.
But its development has been fraught with problems and last month its operating consortium deferred for the third time since March 2011 a final decision on whether to press ahead with initial investments of around $30 billion (€22.9 billion), according to some estimates.
The Shtockman consortium - Gazprom (51% stake), France's Total (25%) and Norway's Statoil (24%) - has been mired in debate over the project's future for several years, with tax breaks being the key issue.