Gazprom Narrows Shtokman List to 4

Gazprom has narrowed the list of potential partners in its giant Shtokman gas field to four as U.S. oil major Chevron has lost interest, a Gazprom source said Wednesday.

The source said Gazprom was still talking to France's Total, the United States' ConocoPhillips and Norway's Statoil and Norsk Hydro on setting up a joint operating company for Shtokman.

"We are talking about setting up a company, which would own production infrastructure, over 600 kilometers of pipelines and the liquefied natural gas plant," the source told reporters, adding that Gazprom would control at least 51 percent in the firm.

"Gazprom will be the sole owner of the gas," he said.

"As [foreign partners] will be involved in production and all technological aspects, they will be able to book reserves if they manage to get it confirmed with [the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission]," he added.

The comment follows Gazprom's statement Tuesday that the firm's CEO Alexei Miller met with Total president Christophe de Margerie to discuss Total's role in Shtokman.

Miller has had similar meetings with Conoco's CEO, James Mulva.

Last year, Gazprom stunned all five firms by scrapping a yearlong bidding process and saying it would develop Shtokman without any foreign equity partners.

Analysts interpreted the move as a Kremlin response to U.S. criticism of Moscow's energy policies. Many energy-rich countries are seeking to tighten their grip over resources amid record prices for oil and gas.

Some industry analysts said Gazprom would struggle to complete the $20 billion project, under the stormy and iceberg-strewn Barents Sea, without foreign know-how.

After ditching the shortlist, Gazprom said it would use foreign contractors but would not offer them any equity in the project, which envisions piping some Shtokman gas to Europe and liquefying the rest for shipping to the United States.

Shtokman, located 550 kilometers off the coast of Norway and Russia, has reserves of more than 3.7 trillion cubic meters of gas -- enough to meet global consumption for over one year.

Discovered in the 1980s, the field was meant to be put on stream in 2003, but the start-up is now not expected before 2013 to 2015.