Gazprom CEO says energy giant developing well, reliable partner

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AMSTERDAM, June 6 (RIA Novosti) - Gazprom moved to play down speculation Tuesday that its natural gas reserves were declining, when the Russian energy giant's chief executive told an international conference that the concern was developing dynamically.

Concerns over a possible shortfall emerged in late May after Claude Mandil, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, said studies had revealed that the Russian company was investing too little to ensure supplies over the next few years.

But Alexei Miller was in a bullish mood when he addressed the audience at the 23rd World Gas Conference in the Netherlands.

"Enough natural gas will be produced to honor all contractual obligations in full," he said.

The chief executive said in 2005 Gazprom had posted its highest growth in gas reserves since 1993 - more than 583.4 billion cubic meters - enough to meet Gazprom's delivery obligations to Germany for 15 years.

He said the company had produced 548 bln cu m of gas in 2005.

"Output volume is limited by market capacity and effective demand at realistic prices rather than by our production capacities. Gazprom still has substantial untapped production potential," Miller said.

Addressing the conference, Dutch Economic Affairs Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst said Europe's dependence on natural gas imports would increase to 80% by 2030 from the current 48% and the share of liquefied natural gas in global gas trade would rise to 50%.

Gazprom covers about 25% of Europe's needs in natural gas.

Brinkhosrt urged greater openness and transparency on the energy market, adding that one major precondition for this was granting Russia access to the European market on an equal, nondiscriminatory basis.

He also said collaboration between energy producers and consumers was crucial for the balanced development of energy markets.

President Vladimir Putin called last Friday for foreign partners seek solutions to increase trust and boost cooperation in the light of a controversy that has surrounded Russia since Gazprom cut off gas supplies to Ukraine in January over a pricing dispute. A shortfall of Russian natural gas passing through pipelines via Ukrainian territory to Europe was registered shortly afterward.

Speaking ahead of the world gas conference, a Gazprom spokesman said the company would raise the issue of Russian gas transit to European consumers via Ukraine.

"In the course of our contacts [in Amsterdam], we will also discuss this matter," Sergei Kupriyanov said after being asked whether Gazprom was going to warn its partners about possible interruptions to Russian gas supplies.

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