* Putin says new route to help conquer Asia-Pacific markets
* Project cost Russia $14 billion, more to be spent
By Gleb Bryanski
KOZMINO, Russia, Dec 28 Russia launched on
Monday a new Pacific oil terminal that will allow the world's
largest energy producer to conquer Asian markets and divert
some Siberian crude flows away from Europe.
"This is a great New Year present for Russia," Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin told workers under a sunny blue sky in
the snow-covered port of Kozmino near the Pacific city of
"This is the completion of one of the biggest projects in
contemporary Russia. This is a strategic project because it
allows (us) to come to new markets, the growing Asia-Pacific
markets," Putin said.
Russia has long been seeking to diversify its oil exports
away from the West amid often frosty relations with the
European Union, its leading trade partner.
Putin pressed a computer mouse button to start crude flows
to fill a 100,000-tonne tanker, The Moscow University, which
officials said will sail to Hong Kong despite stormy winds.
Putin said the terminal cost Russia's pipeline monopoly
Transneft $2 billion.
It also spent $12 billion to connect Siberian fields with a
pipeline to East Siberia from where crude is sent to Kozmino by
rail while a pipeline spur goes to China.
Transneft has to spend another $10 billion to build a
pipeline to Kozmino, which is set to become Russia's third
largest seaborne oil outlet after Primorsk on the Baltic Sea
and Novorossiisk on the Black Sea. [ID:nLDE5BH175]
The first tanker, which belongs to state-run oil firm
Rosneft (ROSN.MM), will carry ESPO crude -- named after the
acronym of Russia's first pipeline to China and the Pacific.
Russia, the world's top oil producer as Saudi Arabia keeps
to OPEC-led supply curbs, plans to export 3.1 million tonnes
(250,000 bpd) of the ESPO Blend via Kozmino in the first
quarter of 2010.
Exports could rise to 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the
next few years.
For a map of the ESPO pipeline, click:
Although the pipeline will only be finished in four years,
the terminal's launch marks another victory for Putin's energy
In 2009, Putin, the chief lobbyist for Russia's energy
interests, secured permissions for gas pipelines that will run
through the Black and Baltic Seas, delivering Russian gas to
Europe and bypassing troublesome transit states.
For an ANALYSIS on ESPO crude in Asia [ID:nTOE5BD04P]
For a FACTBOX on ESPO crude, click [ID:nTOE5BK09K]
(Writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Michael Urquhart)