The Tale of Leonid Mikhelson and Gazprom's Goldfish

At whose expense NOVATEK wants to go to the "paradise" of LNG.


At whose expense NOVATEK wants to go to the "paradise" of LNG.

NOVATEK head Leonid Mikhelson in his recent statement made it clear that he intends to end Gazprom's monopoly on LNG exports abroad. Is the intention to enter into a new confrontation with the head of the state corporation hidden behind this passage.

The Moscow Post correspondent in the Murmansk region understood the situation.

I don't want to be a pillar noblewoman

Mikhelson's desire for NOVATEK to export LNG itself from the promising Murmansk LNG project by 20.4 million tons to EU countries is understandable.

Note that Murmansk LNG is currently NOVATEK's largest project.

But the strange position is highlighted by Leonid Viktorovich. NOVATEK does not have its own gas in this project. The company plans to receive it from surplus from Gazprom, the monopoly on which Michelson constantly nods and whose services he uses. The company intends to buy electricity from another monopoly Rosatom, through the Kola NPP. Most of what NOVATEK does is created on government loans. Maybe Mr. Michelson wants to get ministerial rights to manage the gas monopoly?

Does this not remind the "Tale of a Fisherman and a Fish," when the old woman wanted the "goldfish" to serve her? So to speak, I don't want to be a pillar noblewoman. "

Meanwhile, those who need to are already ready to "wave" everything that Michelson will not offer.

So the speaker of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin has already announced his intention to support the initiatives put forward by the head of NOVATEK reports TASS.

Vyacheslav Volodin on the Murmansk LNG under construction. Photo:

Behind Miller's back

LNG projects, to which extensive state support measures are applied, compete with Gazprom's pipeline gas in the market, which poses risks to budget revenues, said Vladimir Markov, head of Gazprom's department, in an appeal to the Ministry of Energy last January. It was before the sanctions.

Gazprom is dissatisfied with competition in foreign markets. According to Markov.

the bulk of LNG from new plants in the Russian Arctic will continue to be supplied to European countries, which are actually importers of Gazprom's pipeline gas.

NOVATEK Markov did not directly mention, but noted the geographical zones of Yamal and the Gydan Peninsula, where only NOVATEK implements LNG projects.

Therefore, in his opinion, state support for NOVATEK's projects will create conditions for further growth of competition in the traditional Gazprom pipeline gas markets by LNG with artificially low costs, and this will inevitably lead to a decrease in the revenue side of the Russian budget due to a decrease in tax and customs revenues from Russian pipeline gas supplies.

It is noteworthy that Markov's statements were leaked to the media on the eve of the announcement of the winner of the auction for the West Malyginsky licensed subsoil block in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, for which NOVATEK and Gazprom fought. Gazprom won.

In June, representatives of NOVATEK and Gazprom agreed on a joint solution to environmental issues in the Arctic. But there is "something" about the fields, as Mikhelson put it then.

Back in 2020, Miller sharply criticized Michelson over the transportation of that very LNG. In April 2020, Miller, as if in response to reproaches of his own inefficiency (and that year the company suffered terrible losses), said that the NOVOTEK project in Yamal was a source of losses for the budget.

But these words have an explanation hidden from prying eyes. The fact is that LNG is transported from there on giant gas carriers, which Mikhelson ordered at the Zvezda.

Such transportation of the resource costs much more than through the pipeline (what Gazprom is doing and lobbying for). Here they are, budget losses! In addition, the government has established tax breaks for Yamal LNG, which in any case makes Mikhelson's project profitable and reduces the importance of Gazprom.

Behind Miller's back. Photo: Kommersant

Also, according to the authors of the Gaz-Batyushka Telegram channel, the main claim of Gazprom representatives is allegedly that LNG does not pay export duty and MET. The corresponding benefits to the Michelson project will be valid for 12 years after the shipment of the first batch of products. Because of this, the budget will receive less than 150 billion rubles in taxes.

Many other factors have played against Miller in recent years. In August 2021, a major fire occurred at Gazprom's Urengoy condensate preparation plant. The emergency could lead to a shortage of liquefied hydrocarbon gas (LPG) in the domestic market and problems in the fuel and petrochemical sectors. At the same time, another Mikhelson company, Sibur, was and remains the largest producer of LPG, so the fire at Gazprom only once again strengthened its position.

Michelson's statements about the deprivation of Gazprom's monopoly on LNG exports are outwardly sound. However, when it comes to the case, if we are talking about personal interests, which in theory may contradict the state Leonid Viktorovich takes a different position.

For many years, NOVATEK refused to participate in the gasification of Kamchatka, trying to shift responsibility to Gazprom. The company does not have its shares in Sakhalin-2, it is too expensive to deliver LNG from other fields - it does not matter that people are sitting without gas.

But now that British Shell has left the Sakhalin-2 project, it smelled like a lot of money for Mikhelson.

Two years ago, companies and the government had a different plan to gasify with LNG. Novatek was supposed to build a regasification terminal near Petropavlovsk-Kamchatka to sell LNG to Gazprom at the price of an export netback. Gazprom pledged to sell gas at an internal tariff.

But then there was a whole series of events, including the coronavirus pandemic and the general contraction of the economy, as well as a serious drop in the country's gas revenues against the background of a drop in world production (which is very much gas).

And already in September 2022, after six months of SVO and new packages of sanctions, Novatek confirms that the construction of the terminal has not begun. And if it is built, then not in Russia, but in China. The project will cost 12.5 billion rubles, another 16.2 billion rubles will be required to produce two giant gas carriers that will deliver fuel to the terminal.

The layout is very simple, and from the point of view of the business model it is obvious. However, when it comes to state interests as a "lifesaver," Gazprom, which everyone swears at, always appears.

Michelson's risky statement about the abolition of the monopoly has not yet revealed his plans unequivocally. So far, after it, NOVATEK's shares have fallen slightly in price, while Gazprom, on the contrary, has risen. That's clearly not what Michelson was planning.

And also in the piggy bank for lovers of conspiracy theories. Now, according to unconfirmed information, the investment company Freedom is buying out a large package of NOVATEK receipts with their transfer to Kazakhstan. It is logical to assume that further these securities will magically leak to the Moscow Exchange, already in the form of crystal clear shares and put pressure on quotes. And this means that someone has already started a behind-the-scenes game. And clearly not in favor of Russia.