MOSCOW (Kyodo) Gazprom is negotiating for exclusive rights to buy all of the natural gas to be produced by the Sakhalin-1 international oil and natural gas project, according to a senior official of the partially state-owned gas monopoly.

The move suggests the possibility that Russia will take full control of the exporting rights for the natural gas produced by the project, which Exxon Mobil Corp. has led since the mid-1990s and in which Japanese stakeholders, including the government, hold a combined stake of about 30 percent.

An Exxon Mobil subsidiary, Exxon Neftegas Ltd., is the project operator. Japanese stakeholders include the government, Japan Petroleum Exploration Co., Itochu Corp. and Marubeni Corp.

India’s public petroleum company and Russia’s state-run oil producer Rosneft also have stakes in the project, but Gazprom does not.

Gazprom is negotiating with the operator of the Sakhalin-1 project over purchasing all of the natural gas, Gazprom Deputy Chief Executive Officer Alexander Medvedev said in an interview Friday.

Gazprom is interested in increasing the economic effect of the project in accordance with Russia’s national interest, he said.

His comments indicate that the move is in line with Moscow’s policy of allowing Gazprom to control the nation’s natural gas exports, which mainly target the Asia-Pacific market.

Earlier this month, Gazprom took control of another international energy development project called Sakhalin-2. The Royal Dutch/Shell group of Europe and Japanese trading houses Mitsui & Co. and Mitsubishi Corp. ceded a majority stake in the joint project after Russia’s resources ministry ordered a partial suspension of the project due to environmental concerns.

The suspension was believed by some to be a pretext for the Russian government’s efforts to secure Gazprom’s leadership of the project.

Moscow has been applying pressure on the Sakhalin-1 project as well by hinting at the possibility of issuing a similar order.

Last year, Exxon Mobil signed a memorandum with China agreeing that natural gas produced by the Sakhalin-1 project will be exported to China. But the accord could be dropped if Gazprom takes full control of the exports.

Sakhalin-1 was launched off the northeast coast of Sakhalin Island in 1995.

It is one of the world’s major natural resources development projects.

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