... and Gazprom, this includes you.
Our favourite Russian gas monolith tends to think of itself as occupying a charmed and undisputed No.1 position in the global energy market. Not difficult to be pleased with your lot when you have a near- monopsony / monopoly on the world's largest (conventional) gas reserves; and when deputations of craven western oil companies unceasingly make their way to your offices to kow-tow. And when you discover to your chagrin that some technical matters are beyond you, it's a simple matter to parlay all this grovelling into technology-transfer and soft financing.
But not everything turns out quite as planned. Gazprom is of course the epitome of an onshore, pipeline-based gas supplier, and several years ago they realised that deep offshore production and LNG export were going to be very big parts of the future of the industry. But neither deep offshore nor LNG were in their repertoire.
The strategy for rectifying this was a sensible one, given the commercial dynamics mentioned above: (1) sucker some big western companies in to developing and financing production and LNG liquefaction facilities for exporting gas from Sakhalin 2 in Eastern Siberia, and the vast Shtokman in the Barents sea; and (2) during the inevitably lengthy development periods this would involve, get into pure LNG trading in a big way, to build a market for its future LNG production.
Both phases of this plan started promisingly enough. The Sakhalin 2 gas project was initially granted to a consortium of Shell, Mitsui and Mitsubishi; then Gazprom manoeuvred its way into a controlling share by the usual Russian expedient of declaring the project in breach of environmental regulations.
In parallel, a demeaning beauty-parade for potential Shtokman 'partners' was organised, and Gazprom took great pleasure in humiliating the US and Japanese entrants, declaring Total and Statoil the 'winners' (God help them. For once, BP and BG wisely stayed away, despite strong Russian urgings for them to come to the party. Shell couldn't help themselves and had a crack at it, but didn't make the shortlist.) Thus, Gazprom has its second "Russian project that uses and benefits from international expertise and investment".
Gazprom commenced LNG trading in 2005, four years before it had any actual Sakhalin LNG production, building up a healthy sales portfolio. And this is where reality hits home, even for swaggering Russians.
Firstly, Drew's First Law of Projects kicks in: big projects always slip. Gazprom has customers for LNG but not enough supplies: Shtokman is behind schedule and Sakhalin isn't producing enough. So they are in the market for big quantities: Russian sources suggest they will be buying from Brunei to make up the difference.
Well, hey, that's trade, and nothing wrong with meeting your obligations from whatever source comes to hand: it's what makes the world goes round. But it's not at all how Gazprom likes to be seen: the fabled 'reliable supplier' likes to pooh-pooh traded markets as being peripheral, unreliable and distinctly inferior to direct supplies.
They also don't much enjoy being forced to compete for sales, either - though since the advent of shale gas it is their fate to be just one supplier among many in an over-supplied market. The Chinese have told them what they can do with their oil-indexed pipeline gas: and even the Israelis don't scruple to tell the world they can do without Gazprom's LNG.
Don't fret, дру́же, you'll soon learn how market forces work.