Putin hands Shell a role in gas projects

ANGLO-DUTCH energy giant Shell has accepted an invitation from Russian president Vladimir Putin to participate in two giant natural gas projects, as the country eases its nationalistic clasp over its energy sector.<br /><br />Royal Dutch Shell was yesterday asked to take part in the Sakhalin-3 and Sakhalin-4 deep-sea gas projects off Russia&rsquo;s Pacific coast.<br /><br />Putin yesterday met with Shell chief executive Jeroen van der Veer at his summer residence outside Moscow to discuss the projects.<br /><br />&ldquo;These require offshore production in difficult deep-sea areas where your experience will be very valuable,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Van der Veer accepted the invitation and said it was an ideal time to move ahead with the projects, as the financial crisis has brought down the price of construction.<br /><br />&ldquo;We are ready to work quickly. It is a good signal that investments start to flow again, a good signal for Russia and, of course, a good signal for Shell,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />The deal comes after Shell was forced to pass control of the Sakhalin-2 project to national Russian gas giant Gazprom in 2006, as Putin moved to ensure the nation benefited from rapidly-rising energy prices.<br /><br />But oil prices have tumbled of late &ndash; with crude almost halving from the level it was a year ago &ndash; leading to a renewed easing of resource nationalism. Putin made the Shell offer just days after French oil giant Total signed a deal with Russian gas firm Novatek to develop a gas condensate field in Yamal.