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Eastern Gas Program and Russia’s Expansion to Asia-Pacific Region - Erkin Sancarbaba

It is indisputable that multinational energy investments led by Russia envisage a sustainable partnership among various countries. On the other hand, the issue of energy as a weapon, which is controversial and still up to date, is not the subject of this article. It is not easy to make a definite comment on this issue for the time being. It is used as a counter-argument that the projection presented by Russia's energy projects focuses on common interests and promotes joint energy policies. The basis of the aforementioned argument is the realistic, stable, and long-term approach that Russia has established with its partners in the field of energy. The Eastern Gas Program can be considered as the pioneer of such a partnership formed by Russia in the Asia-Pacific region. The foresight of the project and accurate identification of long-term common interests increase the probability of success.

The mega project can be considered as the symbol of Russia's expansion to the neighboring Asia-Pacific region. The great interest of Russian energy companies in European countries has generally been discussed at the political level in Europe. This situation posed an obstacle to European decision-makers impartial evaluation of Russian energy investments. In addition, it is clear that Europe is still unable to pursue a joint energy policy. Evidently, this situation reduces predictability for Russian policymakers and companies. In this respect, Russia's entry into new and stable markets is vital for the country's future vision. The Asia-Pacific region is one of the leading markets for Russia due to its increasing energy demand and strategic importance.

To understand Russia's interest and approach to the Asia-Pacific region, it would be useful to examine the dimensions of the project. The scope and large capacity of the project are a requirement of the long-term interests of Russia and Russian companies in the region. Moreover, it is very crucial to meet the increasing energy needs of the Asia-Pacific region. Particularly, China's orientation towards new, sustainable and stable energy has encouraged Russian companies to implement the project. Responding to the increasing demand of the region can only be possible and feasible with stable energy production and transmission policy. Otherwise, the current energy crisis will not be the last one. In this direction, the projects of the Eastern Gas Program, which have large-volume energy generation capacity and include solid investments, offer long-term and permanent solutions to Russia's neighbors.

Power of Siberia project, with a length of three thousand kilometers and an annual export capacity of thirty-eight billion cubic meters, is one of the projects within the scope of the Eastern Gas Program. The promising project delivers natural gas to Russia's Far East and has the potential to give a new impetus to the country's energy exports to China. The construction of the USD 55 billion worth project began in September 2014. In May of the same year, a thirty-year Sales and Purchase Agreement was signed between Gazprom and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).In addition, Amur Gas Processing Plant was built to process the gas to be transported thanks to this project. This new complex is Russia's largest and one of the world's leading gas processing plants in terms of capacity. This facility, which is unique in Russian history, was built to process gas to be exported directly to China. The facility can process42 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, as well as high amounts of helium, ethane, propane, butane, and pentane-hexane. Firms from many countries, including Rönesans Holding of Turkey, contributed to the construction of the 800-hectare facility. When evaluated in terms of their large capacity and dimensions, these two projects clearly demonstrate Russia's confidence in the Chinese energy market and its long-term targets for China.

Another project of the Eastern Gas Program is the Sakhalin–Khabarovsk–Vladivostok Natural Gas Pipeline which aims to transport the Sakhalin's gas to the most populated and industrialized regions of Russia's Far East region. However, the construction plan of the pipeline makes it possible to expand this line to be able to export energy to China, South Korea, and Japan in the future. With an agreement to be made with the aforementioned countries, Russian gas might be transferred to these countries in the coming period. In this case, Gazprom will be able to meet this need by increasing the capacity at Sakhalin offshore fields.

The political pressures that Russia has been exposed to, especially in the European energy market, have prompted the Russian government and energy companies, which can be considered representatives of Russian national interests, to seek alternatives. The Eastern Gas Program has symbolic importance in this respect. This program is the product of the will of Russian policymakers to implement new alternatives. It is a reality that Russia's activities in the Asia-Pacific region will gain momentum thanks to the Eastern Gas Program. Currently, there is an atmosphere in the region where the parties look out for each other's long-term interests. It is obvious that the aforementioned cooperation in the energy field will increasingly continue as long as Russia's determination in energy supply and stable demand in the Asia-Pacific region continue to exist.


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