A ceremony in Moscow has marked the start of production at the huge Yuzhno Russkoye gas field in northwest Siberia. Russian and German companies are jointly developing the field, which will feed the Nord Stream gas pipeline being built to supply Western Europe.
Assembled dignitaries, including Germany’s Vice Chancellor, watched a live video link from the site, which is 3,500 kilometres north-west of Moscow.
The ceremony was presided over by the Chairman of the Board of the Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom, Dmitry Medvedev, who is also the formal candidate to succeed Vladimir Putin as Russian president.
He said: “Today we’re commencing work at the Yuzhno Russkoye gas field, which has a capacity of more than one trillion cubic metres of natural gas. And a great many people have been involved in this event.” He added that: “This project is Russia’s contribution to energy security in Europe.”
Gazprom owns the majority of the project. German chemical group BASF has an almost 25% stake and there is an option for Germany’s largest utility E.ON to acquire the remaining 25%.
The Nord Stream pipeline, which will run under the Baltic Sea, is due to begin pumping Russian gas to Europe in 2010 with the capacity to be doubled later.