Russia's Novatek in talks with Indian companies on LNG, may consider rupees

FILE PHOTO: The Russian Energy Week International Forum in Moscow

By Nidhi Verma and Shariq Khan

BENGALURU, India (Reuters) -Novatek, Russia's largest liquefied natural gas producer, has been in talks with Indian companies including GAIL on the supply of LNG and may consider taking payments in rupees, the company's head Leonid Mikhelson said on Monday.

He also said consumers in Europe, which have imposed sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine, were interested in Russian LNG, which has not been placed under restrictions, and that no buyers under long-term contracts wanted to terminate them.

Russia supplied Europe with some 17 million tonnes of LNG last year, up about 20% from 2021 volumes, Refinitiv Eikon data showed on Tuesday, mitigating the impact of a steep decline in Russian pipeline gas exports.

Europe has increased imports of seaborne LNG - gas transported in liquid form at minus 160 degrees Celsius (minus 256 Fahrenheit) - in response to the cut in pipeline gas supplies from Russia caused by a deep political crisis over Ukraine.

Three industry sources said last week that Novatek was close to a deal to supply gas to GAIL as it seeks alternative markets to Europe.

Mikhelson said Novatek was talking to more than one Indian company on a long-term contract for Indian market.

"Definitely we have plans... we have engineering companies present in India, we need to expand and grow in that part. We would like to invest in promotion of demand, and regasification terminals and LNG retail stations," Mikhelson said.

Asked whether Indian rupees would be considered as a means of payment from Indian customers, he said they would.

He also said LNG production at the Yamal LNG plant would be 5% less this year than in 2022 due to delays in maintenance.

(Reporting by Nidhi Verma and Shariq Khan; writing by Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Barbara Lewis)