* Vanco deal was halted by Tymoshenko government in 2008
* It aims to explore area near Kerch straits in Black Sea
* Ukraine wants to end reliance on Russia for gas
KIEV, Feb 13 The Ukrainian government has given
the go-ahead to a delayed Black Sea energy exploration deal with
U.S. firm Vanco which was halted by the previous government of
The government's decision is part of renewed efforts by the
leadership of President Viktor Yanukovich to tap new ways of
developing domestic gas resources to reduce its reliance on
Russia, Ukraine's main strategic supplier.
Kiev has tried to persuade Moscow to reduce the price of
Russian gas imports, brokered by Tymoshenko, but has so far
failed to secure any concessions.
Government website kmu.gov.ua showed an order rescinding a
2008 resolution which had annulled the licence granted to Vanco
International Ltd. under a 30-year production-sharing contract
for exploration near Kerch on the Crimean peninsula in the Black
Vanco outbid ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell
in 2006 to win the right to develop an area of just
under 13,000 square km about 13 km (8 miles) offshore.
But Tymoshenko, now in jail for alleged abuse-of-office
which she denies, in May 2008 unilaterally withdrew from the
agreement, saying she was acting to protect state interests.
She accused Vanco of breaking rules and conditions of the
agreement and also voiced concern the firm was preparing to sell
the licence to a large multinational such as Russia's Gazprom
Vanco subsequently appealed to the international arbitration
court in Stockholm which last December approved an amicable
agreement between Ukraine and the company, ending the dispute.
The ruling by Prime Minister Mykola Azarov's government
means that Vanco Prykerchenska, a subsidiary of Vanco Energy,
may now go ahead with the offshore project.
Vanco in Ukraine could not be reached for immediate comment.
Energy reserves in the Kerch area targeted for exploration
could be about 10.8 billion cubic metres, according to
Yanukovich's government has chosen a consortium led by
ExxonMobil and Shell to develop another Black Sea field at
Skifska, has signed a production-sharing agreement with Shell
for shale gas exploration and is seeking foreign investors to
help it build a liquefied natural gas terminal on the Black Sea