LNG supplies to Japan under the Sakhalin-II oil and gas project off Russia’s Pacific Coast are set to start in February next year, according to the recent sentiments of a Gazprom senior official.

The $20bn Sakhalin II project includes the Piltun-Astokhskoye and Lunskoye oil and gas fields on Sakhalin Island’s northeastern shelf, with recoverable reserves estimated at 150 million tonnes (1.1 billion bbl) of oil and 500 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

Alexander Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of the Gazprom management committee and Head of Gazprom Export, is thought to have indicated the first stage of the LNG plant in Sakhalin would be launched in 2009 and the second stage in 2010.

“An official ceremony of filling the first tanker with liquefied natural gas is scheduled for 19th February,” said Medvedev.

Minority partners in the project include Royal Dutch Shell, Mitsui and Mitsubishi, currently holding 27.5%, 12.5% and 10% stakes in the project respectively. Gazprom acquired a controlling stake (50% plus one share) in the project in December 2006.