OAO Gazprom’s Sakhalin Energy venture has now begun year-round oil exports and following construction of pipelines to the southern tip of the Pacific island, plans to start producing LNG in ‘the next few weeks’.

The $22bn project had been slated to begin year-round oil exports in 2007 and LNG exports in the second half of 2008.

Much of the LNG will be exported to Japan, as the world’s biggest buyer of the fuel.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s biggest oil producer, agreed to cede control of Sakhalin-2 to Gazprom two years ago after months of pressure from environmental regulators, who threatened to shut down the project.

Gazprom now owns 50% plus one share of Sakhalin Energy Co. Shell holds 27.5%, Mitsui & Co. holds 12.5% and Mitsubishi Corp. has 10%.

Meanwhile, Distrigas’ Methania LNG tanker arrived in Portugal recently to deliver its cargo, having previously delivered a cargo in Barcelona, Spain.

The tanker headed to Sines in Portugal after delivering a cargo in Barcelona, Spain, according to a spokeswoman for Distrigas. The tanker had previously been waiting at sea for more than four weeks as it struggled to find buyers for the product.