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Russian Gas Producer Novatek Aims to Knock down Qatar from LNG Top Spot | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A company logo is seen at the sales office of Novatek, Russia’s largest independent natural gas producer, in Moscow September 16, 2012. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Russian gas producer Novatek aims to topple Qatar as the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas as it gets closer to completing its first LNG project, a top executive said, batting away concerns about US sanctions on the sector.

The country’s largest non-state gas producer is expected to start exporting LNG from the first phase of the Yamal project, situated far above the Arctic circle, towards the end of this year and may bring forward its final stage by six months, CFO Mark Gyetvay said.

But it is the inception of Novatek’s second, and Russia’s third, large-scale LNG project called Arctic LNG 2 that would transform the company, headed by Russia’s richest businessman Leonid Mikhelson, into a top global producer within a decade.

“We have huge ambitions to be just as large as Qatar is as one country, but as one company,” Gyetvay said in London on the sidelines of an energy forum. Qatar and Russia have long been rivals in global gas markets.

Qatar’s supplies came under the spotlight in the past month after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt along with a number of states cut economic and diplomatic ties. Qatar is under boycott for its support of extremist groups held responsible for regional turmoil.

Russia’s energy industry, meanwhile, has been hamstrung by European and US sanctions over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, with Europeans particularly sensitive to any potential Russian gas supply cuts in retaliation for political tensions in the region.