MOSCOW Sep 6, 2006 (Dow Jones Newswires)
Russian natural gas company OAO Gazprom (GSPBEX.RS) said Wednesday it had sent letters to all five companies hoping to take part in the development of the massive Shtokman natural gas field in Russia's frigid Barents Sea.
The announcement follows a statement by France's Total SA (TOT) that it had been invited to more active talks with Gazprom, prompting speculation that the Russian gas giant may be closer to choosing partners.
But a spokesman for Gazprom said that all five companies on the short-list had received such letters, and that the company was still analyzing proposals.
Aside from Total, other companies bidding to take part in the project include U.S. firms Chevron Corp.(CVX) ConocoPhillips (COP), and Norway's Statoil ASA (STO) and Norsk Hydro ASA (NHY).
A spokesman for Statoil confirmed it had received Gazprom's letter.
The letter "outlines a process for further discussions," Statoil spokesman Ola Morten Aanestad said.
He declined to give further details.
The Shtokman project aims to ship gas from the field's 3.6 trillion cubic meters of reserves to North American markets in the form of liquefied natural gas.
Talks on the project have dragged on for months as Gazprom says it continues to analyze its potential partners' bids. Gazprom has said it plans to choose two or three partners for the project.
A person at Gazprom told Dow Jones Newswires that the company now sees a decision coming sometime before the end of the year.
Copyright (c) 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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