Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin opened Sunday a pipeline branch to carry Siberian oil to China and hailed Russia's energy business in China as an important counterweight to its European clients.
Putin was speaking in the town of Skovorodino, the end of the pipeline to the Pacific region, in honor of the completion of a branch that will carry Siberian oil to the Chinese town of Daqing from the end of the year. PetroChina is the importer.
"This is an important project for us because we are starting to diversify sales of our energy resources. To date, the main deliveries are to our European partners. They get around 120 million to 130 million tons of our oil today," Putin said.
Russia's relationship with Europe is especially uneasy on the energy front, since gas supplies were cut in the dead of winter during a spat with Ukraine, a key transit country, over gas non-payments.
Putin said that when physical deliveries begin, Russia will pump oil at a rate of 30 million tons per year. Further expansion will bring deliveries to 50 million tons, he said. "This is already significant competition for the European route."
"These are not just energy-resources supplies to China; this is a comprehensive project that has strengthened our energy cooperation," Putin said.
"The implementation of this project is a crucial task for Russia and our Chinese friends. It means the stabilization of supplies and energy balance for China, and for us it creates entry to new, challenging markets, in this particular case, to the growing market of China," Putin added.