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Gazprom Reportedly 'Undisputed Leader' of Global Gas Producers

With a 16% worldwide market share, Russia's Gazprom remains the "undisputed leader" of global natural gas producers, followed by ExxonMobil Corp., with a 4% share, according to a new report by Societe Generale (SG).

For the fourth year in a row SG published a global gas production ranking of listed companies.

Gazprom, which led the SG rankings in 2010, cut its gas output by 16% in 2009 from 2008 to "strike a balance in an oversupplied market," but last year it managed to increase production by 10%, thanks to rising demand in the Former Soviet Union.

Irving, TX-based ExxonMobil also built its gas output last year -- by 31% -- because of its acquisition of gas shale producer XTO Energy Inc. in late 2009. However, the producer "still produces only a quarter of what Gazprom produces," noted analysts.

Also holding top gas production spots were Royal Dutch Shell plc and BP plc, which each captured 3%. PetroChina International Ltd., Total SA and Chevron Corp. each had a 2% share. National oil companies together held 43% of the total market, while "other" listed companies held 25%.

"Of the major oil companies, BP plc is the only one to have seen a decline in production, as it has had to sell noncore assets to pay for its liabilities" related to the Macondo well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, the analysts said. And "BP should continue to see a decline in 2011."

Other U.S.-based gas heavyweights making the top 20 were Encana Corp. at 12; Chesapeake Energy Corp. at 14; Devon Energy Corp. at 15; Anadarko Petroleum Corp. at 16; Apache Corp. at 18; and EOG Resources Inc. at 20.

North American producers that also held a slice of the latest leader board were Talisman Energy Inc. at 22; Canadian Natural Resources at 24; Occidental Petroleum Corp. at 27; Marathon Oil Corp. at 29; Cenovus Energy Inc. at 30; Hess Corp. at 33; El Paso Corp. at 34; Suncor Energy Inc. at 38; and Husky Energy Inc. at 39.

Last year also saw "major divestments" among the top producers, with the biggest sales including Shell's sale of its 10% stake in Australia's Woodside and ConocoPhillips' 14% interest in Russia's Lukoil.

More changes are expected to affect the rankings in 2011, in part because of Middle East unrest. Eni SpA, among those most impacted, "should exit the top 10 gas producer list in 2011" because it is expected to be "severely impacted" by the uprising in Libya, the analysts said.

"Divestments are set to continue in 2011," with ConocoPhillips selling its remaining Lukoil interest and BP continuing to pare its portfolio. Shell also may exit Woodside.

The emerging shale gas developments in China could positively impact the rankings as well. "Petrochina is the most active shale gas explorer in China and has a production target for Sichuan shale gas of 10 billion cubic meters (Bcm) by 2015," the analysts said. "Shell operates the Changbei tight gas field under a production sharing contract with Petrochina. This field has been producing 3 Bcm/year since 2008.

"Furthermore, Shell is currently drilling 17 wells in China" and plans to spend $1 billion a year over the next five years on shale gas "if its exploration works under way prove a success."

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