* RWE, Turkmenistan discuss direct gas shipments to Europe
* RWE to explore one of Turkmenistan’s Caspian blocks
ASHGABAT, April 16 (Reuters) - Germany’s RWE AG (RWEG.DE) signed an agreement with Turkmenistan on Thursday allowing the company to develop an offshore gas block and seek new ways to deliver Turkmen gas to Europe.
RWE is a shareholder of Nabucco, a planned EU-backed pipeline designed to ease Europe’s dependence on Russia for its gas needs. Russia is the main buyer of Turkmen gas and opposes the Nabucco project.
“Amongst other things, the parties have agreed upon investigating and discussing first direct deliveries of natural gas from Turkmenistan to Germany and Europe,” RWE said in a statement.
RWE Chief Executive Juergen Grossmann visited the former Soviet state on Thursday to sign the agreement and meet Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.
“There are several options (how to ship Turkmen gas to Europe) and one of them is through the Caspian sea and we will work on it,” Grossmann told reporters through an interpreter.
He added that RWE would work on Turkmenistan’s part of the Caspian which is potentially rich with oil and gas.
“We are talking about Block 23 of Turkmenistan’s Caspian shelf,” Grossman said. He gave no other details. No public information about this block was immediately available.
RWE declined to provide any details of its exploration and development plans.
After coming to power in 2007, the Turkmen leader pledged to bring in foreign investment and diversify gas exports.
As part of this policy, Turkmenistan is building a gas pipeline to China, due to be completed this year. It has not signed any major deals with Western companies so far.
Turkmenistan produces about 75 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas a year and sells about 50 bcm to Russia’s Gazprom (GAZP.MM). The Chinese pipeline will have a capacity of 40 bcm a year. (Reporting by Marat Gurt; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov, editing by Anthony Barker)