Sakhalin to Start Exporting LNG in March

Sakhalin Energy will produce 6 million tons of liquefied natural gas this year, or around two-thirds of its designed capacity, with the first cargo to sail at the end of March, the Energy Ministry said Monday.

The ministry gave the March startup date after months of speculation that the firm, controlled by Gazprom, could fall behind schedule.

Late last year, Gazprom said its first LNG shipment from Sakhalin would launch at the beginning of 2009, although this came after several delays since September 2008.

"The shipment of the first LNG load, which will be produced for a Japanese client, should take place at the end of March of 2009," the ministry said in a statement.

The shipment will mark Russia's first-ever LNG project.

The ministry also said the company will increase oil output to 5 million tons this year from around the 2 million tons it was producing in previous years.

Gazprom bought control of the $22 billion project after a prolonged crisis that forced Royal Dutch Shell, the project's former leader, and its partners to reduce their holdings. Analysts had expected that the battle would lead to delays.