Gazprom puts on a tender face

Gazprom has appointed a new head of its export division, effectively the world’s most powerful gas trader: Elena Burmistrova, who was swiftly ushered in to talks with President Vladimir Putin.

Credited with helping to clinch the $400 billion (€293 billion) deal with China last month, the former Glencore employee discussed “eastern projects” with Putin and Gazprom Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller, the Kremlin said.

Burmistrova’s appointment ended the 12-year tenure in the post of Alexander Medvedev, criticised for his tough style, in a surprise change of gear for Gazprom, the world’s biggest conventional gas producer and widely seen as an instrument of Kremlin foreign policy.

Gazprom is enmeshed in a fresh gas pricing dispute with Ukraine, which has increased friction with the European Union following similar spats over the past decade that resulted in supply cuts to many European states.

On Wednesday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said he saw the situation escalating to a “full-scale gas crisis” by autumn.

Alexander Medvedev, 58, widely credited for Gazprom’s speedy expansion in the West, but criticised for clashes with Ukraine, will keep his role as deputy chairman of the state-controlled company.

One industry source suggested he might continue to run Gazprom Export from behind the scenes, but there was no indication Medvedev was present at the meeting with Putin and Burmistrova on Wednesday.

Burmistrova, 43, started her career in 1992 at Swiss-based Glencore, one of the world’s biggest mining and trading houses. She joined Gazprom Export in 2003, and had been Medvedev’s deputy overseeing liquefied natural gas (LNG) and new gas markets, as well as having other duties, since 2011.

Industry sources described her as an ally of Medvedev. “They prepared the China contract together. She contributed a lot to preparations,” one said.

The deal to supply China with gas over 30 years underlined the importance of winning contracts with Asia, as Europe tries to reduce reliance on Russian gas.

“Gazprom’s ambitious plans for external markets call for new structural and functional decisions,” Miller said in a statement that gave few details.

Source: EurActiv, 2014

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