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'Gas OPEC' could be established in June - paper

Russia and other major natural gas exporters could announce a cartel similar to OPEC in Moscow in June, a Russian business daily said on Thursday.
MOSCOW, January 24 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and other major natural gas exporters could announce a cartel similar to OPEC in Moscow in June, a Russian business daily said on Thursday.

Kommersant said, however, citing analysts, that even if the gas cartel was formed it would be unlikely to immediately achieve a comparable level of global influence to that enjoyed by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in the oil business due to U.S. and EU opposition.

Members of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, which control 73% of the world's gas reserves and 42% of production, held a session in Egypt on Wednesday and plan to discuss a charter of the new international organization based on the principles guiding OPEC at its next session in June, the daily said.

The draft charter was proposed last year by Iran, which has the world's second largest gas reserves and is in need of new export markets, the paper said.

Unlike the oil market, there is currently no price coordination in gas dealings. Prices are individually negotiated for five years per contract between producers and consumers. Membership in a gas cartel would give exporters greater clout and a stronger presence on Asian and European markets.

Russia's Industry and Energy Ministry made changes to the draft charter and submitted it for coordination with other ministries in November after a GECF session in Doha, Qatar, in late October. The Foreign Ministry and Economic Development and Trade Ministry have criticized Iran's draft over negative political consequences it could trigger, the paper said, citing government sources.

Gas producers plan to finally coordinate their positions on the charter in Moscow, which experts quoted by Kommersant warn could trigger fresh tensions in relations between Russia and the United States.

Washington has labeled the brainchild of some of the world's least democratic countries as a security threat and said it was designed for "extortion". The founding fathers of the 'gas OPEC' would be Russia, Iran, Qatar, Venezuela and Algeria.

An analyst with the Troika Dialog investment said an organization of gas exporting states would be created in the next few years, but it would have no major influence on the market due to fierce opposition from the U.S. and Europe.

"The exporters will have to take an evolutionary, rather than a revolutionary, way to the gradual consolidation of efforts," Valery Nesterov told the newspaper.

A senior Russian Industry and Energy official told Kommersant it was not clear whether the emergence of the cartel would be announced at the Moscow forum.

"Talks on a new gas pricing policy have been conducted and producers' and consumers' demands have been coordinated, and recommendations on investment in the gas industry have been discussed," Stanislav Naumov admitted, adding that this did not mean that Iran's proposal enjoyed unequivocal backing.

Russia's gas giant Gazprom has given no official comments on the Iranian initiative, Kommersant said.

The Gas Exporting Countries Forum was set up in 2001. It has no charter, clear membership structure or representation in any country. Its permanent participants include Algeria, Bolivia, Brunei, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Libya, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. Norway is an observer.

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