Russia

Vladmir Putin (left) and Igor Sechin (right)“We are about to see a new wave of consolidation in the world’s oil and gas business.” The words are not mine – they were spoken earlier this month by the President of what is now the world’s largest energy business. Igor Sechin is the President of Rosneft, the Russian company which with the completion of the takeover of TNK now produces over 4 million barrels of oil per day – more even than Exxon.

Rosneft is 70 per cent owned by the Russian state. Mr Sechin, who is famous for a spell in Soviet intelligence, is one of the most powerful men in Russia. John D. Rockefeller used every device possible to limit competition as he built Standard Oil and was eventually defeated by a cultural and legal resistance to monopoly. Mr Sechin has no such problems. The consolidation of Russia’s oil assets over the last decade has had the full support of the Kremlin. Read more

A week after the EU and the IMF announced their bail out plan for Cyprus, it is now clear how little consideration was given to the knock on implications of the proposals. Even if they are never implemented, the ideas put forward might change the behaviour of those with funds in banks across southern Europe. But the proposals will have still wider implications – not least for Europe’s energy security.

The Russian reaction to the proposed bank deposit levy had been predictably furious. Surely someone in Brussels or Berlin could have foreseen what would happen? Did no-one realise that a good proportion of the Russian money in Cyprus belonged to people rather close to the Kremlin? Read more

The rumours that Vladimir Putin is about to replace Aleksey Miller as the chief executive of Gazprom continue to swirl around the markets across Europe. As usual it is hard to know what is true and what is dreamt up by Mr Miller’s enemies. Removing Mr Miller would not, however, solve Gazprom’s problems. What the company really needs is a new strategy. What should it be. ? Read more

Ukraine deal confirms Shell's commitment to shale gas. Getty Images.

Shell’s decision to invest $10bn in the development of shale gas in Ukraine is certainly a significant move.

First, it confirms Shell’s commitment to shale and the company’s determination to override environmental objections to the technology of fracking. Shell believes shale can be developed safely and cleanly enough to avoid damaging either the environment or the company’s reputation. This move will help to confirm shale’s arrival in the mainstream of the energy market. Read more

Pipeline will be laid on the bed of the Black Sea

Gazprom has been putting the final investment agreements in place for the South Stream project, clearing the way for construction of the 63bn cubic metres a year pipeline to Europe to begin next month. Never mind that demand for Russian gas in Europe is falling, or the $19bn cost of South Stream. The pipeline will help free Gazprom from dependence on Ukrainian transit pipelines and improve European energy security.

Gazprom and its foreign partners took a final investment decision on the 900km offshore section of South Stream at a meeting in Milan late on Wednesday. The pipeline will be laid on the bed of the Black Sea and will link southern Russia with the coast of Bulgaria.

 Read more

A tanker is filled at a Gazprom refinery. Getty

Could the conflict between Gazprom and the European Union become the antitrust case of the decade?

The answer is yes and the argument is spelt out in an excellent paper just published by the Centre for European Policy Studies.

The case could not only make legal history and provide a very timely reminder that the EU is alive and kicking, it could also transform the international gas market, pushing on the fall in prices already underway and undermining to the point of extinction the linkage between the prices of crude oil and natural gas. Read more

Over the years, many governments, rivals, oligarchs and commentators have underestimated Vladimir Putin – often to their cost. When he came to power back in 1999, he was seen as simply a poodle, a temporary, technocratic figure as Mr Yeltsin’s prime minister with no political presence of his own. Some 13 years later, he is one of the longest serving leaders in the world.

Russia is no democratic paradise but by and large Mr Putin has avoided open conflicts and had begun to re-establish a position for Russia in the world – not quite the superpower it once was but rather as a country with a strong government that no one can afford to ignore. Read more