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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gazprom Neft Gets Go-Ahead on New Sakhalin Field

Gazprom Neft received permission to explore an offshore Sakhalin oil field -- potentially in partnership with Norway's Statoil -- for three more years, the Natural Resources Ministry said Tuesday.

The ministry's Federal Subsoil Resource Use Agency decided to allow Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of Gazprom, to explore the Lopukhovskoye field until 2010, ministry spokesman Rinat Gizatulin said.

Gazprom Neft plans to invite Statoil for joint exploration, Kommersant reported Tuesday, citing a source familiar with the plans for the field. The companies signed a broad memorandum of understanding last month.

Gazprom Neft spokeswoman Natalya Vyalkina said she had no comment on the report.

Statoil vice president for media relations Ola Morten Aanestad declined to confirm the deal but said the companies wanted to work together. "We are looking at various business opportunities for joint exploration," he said by telephone from Stavanger, Norway.

Gazprom Neft bought the license for Lopukhovsky, which expired May 30, from TNK-BP a few years ago. Gazprom Neft president Alexander Dyukov said last month he would seek a partner to develop the field.

Statoil, which will complete a merger with Norsk Hydro on Oct. 1, is also hoping to become Gazprom's partner in developing the huge Shtokman gas field in the Arctic. The companies are in talks about possible cooperation there, Statoil's Aanestad said, declining to speculate on when a deal might be reached.

France's Total last week became the first foreign partner to join Gazprom in Shtokman. The other firm in the running is U.S. major ConocoPhillips.