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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia, Norway Agree To Cooperate on Gas

Russia and Norway, major gas exporters, believe the European market is big enough for both of them and they will not allow competition to get in the way of cooperation.

"There is going to be an increase in the European gas market and in demand for supplies from both Russia and Norway," Norwegian Industry and Energy Minister Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview Thursday.

Russian First Deputy Fuel and Energy Minister Anatoly Fomin told a news conference that the two countries were competitors but shared a common interest in expanding the gas market.

"Neither side sees any problem in possible cooperation," he said. "We conducted a detailed study of the European gas market, and according to our forecasts, there will be a shortage."

Fomin said consumption would rise because natural gas is regarded as more ecologically clean than other fossil fuels. "Therefore, we are ready to supply more gas to this market," he said, without giving figures.

Stoltenberg said Norway expected to increase its European market share. "At least we are sure Norway will increase its exports," he said. "At the turn of the century we are going to export at least double the 25 billion cubic meters that we are exporting today" per year, he said.

"It is hard to say how much we will increase our market share by because we believe there will be an increase in the total market," he said.

Europe imports about a quarter of the 300 billion cubic meters, or bcm, of gas it uses each year. Recent estimates say demand could be 470 bcm by 2010, with imports accounting for 40 percent.

Russia exported about 100 bcm of gas last year. About half of the sales went to Germany, Italy and France.

Norway and Russia believe the market will benefit from diversification of supplies, making fuel more attractive for customers concerned about over-reliance on a single source.

Stoltenberg attended a Norway-Russia energy forum in Moscow this week, where the two countries said they planned to learn from each other's experience in such areas as tax and pricing policies, legislation and environmental protection.

The Norwegian minister said he had discussed the world oil and gas market with Fomin.

"We believe it is important for Norway, as an oil producer and exporter, to exchange information," he said. "We are getting a better basis for our decisions, but we didn't discuss concrete production limitations or anything like that."

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, wants nonmembers such as Russia and Norway to join in efforts to prop up the market.

Fomin, who said Moscow favored cooperation with OPEC, was optimistic on the long-term outlook for oil and gas prices as the West climbs out of a long recession.