Russia firms up huge natural gas deal with S.Korea

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Russia will ship at least 10 billion cubic metres (350 billion cubic feet) of natural gas a year to South Korea from 2017 under a preliminary deal to be signed Wednesday, Moscow's energy giant Gazprom said.

Commercial talks will start next month on the deal, Gazprom head Alexey Miller told reporters on the sidelines of a visit by President Dmitry Medvedev to Seoul for a G20 summit this week.

"We currently see a growing market in Korea," Miller said. "Our partners are interested in increasing gas supplies."

Miller said the delivery method -- a pipeline, compressed gas or liquefied gas -- had yet to be agreed and gave no details on the value of the deal.

When the initial agreement was signed in 2008, an official quoted by Yonhap news agency said the gas imports would be worth about 90 billion dollars over three decades.

South Korea, one of the world's largest consumers of natural gas, is trying to diversify its sources from Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

It has a separate 20-year deal to import 1.5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas from Russia's Sakhalin Energy every year.

Russia holds the world's largest natural gas reserves, estimated at 1,680 trillion cubic feet.

Medvedev called for a "strategic" partnership with South Korea, in comments at a G20 business summit which precedes the leaders' gathering Thursday and Friday.

"Russia is interested in the arrival of Korean investors. They bring in modern technologies and introduce a modern culture of production," he said.

The Russian leader stressed that apart from trade, "for us it is no less important to learn from our partners and establish with them the so-called modernisation alliances."

Medvedev has pushed for modernisation of Russia's economy and a lessening of its dependence on oil and gas exports.

© 2010 AFP

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