Gas Nation Cartel Seen This Year

The world's top gas-exporting nations will set up a formal organization at a December summit in Moscow, a Russian official said Wednesday, but denied that the new body would seek to copy OPEC's production quotas.

"No one is planning to regulate gas production volumes. It is a crazy idea," Deputy Energy Minister Anatoly Yanovsky said.

He said energy ministers from 16 gas-exporting nations would meet in Moscow on Dec. 23, as planned, to sign a charter for the new organization.

The comment follows a meeting on Wednesday of experts from a more informal gas-exporters club, known as the Forum of Gas Exporting Nations, which discussed its draft charter.

The forum's country members include Algeria, Bolivia, Brunei, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Russia and Venezuela.

Two other members -- Equatorial Guinea and Norway -- act as observers.

Europe's top suppliers, including Russia, say the new organization would help better structure long-term gas needs and coordinate capital expenditure programs.

Three members of the future group -- Russia, Iran and Qatar -- whose combined output is more than half of global production -- have agreed to set up what Moscow called a separate "gas troika," which they said would coordinate long-term investment plans.