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Russia's Novatek sells first Yamal LNG cargo to Malaysia's Petronas

London — Russia's Novatek said Monday the maiden cargo from its Yamal LNG project that shipped at the weekend had been sold to the UK-based LNG trading subsidiary of Malaysia's state-owned Petronas.

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The cargo -- loaded on Friday aboard the Christophe de Margerie icebreaking tanker -- comprises 170,000 cu m of LNG and is currently headed westward toward the Barents Sea, according to S&P Global Platts trade flow software cFlow.

Petronas holds LNG import capacity at the Dragon LNG plant in the UK, so it is conceivable the cargo will end up there.

However, it is thought that Novatek has some flexibility in the sale so the cargo could still be diverted.

Novatek could not be reached for additional comment Monday.

The first handful of cargoes from Yamal LNG will all be sold on a spot basis before the slew of long-term contracts for lifting from the plant -- only Russia's second LNG export facility -- come into effect from April 2018.

"All LNG sales prior to that date will be sold by Yamal LNG shareholders on a spot basis," the company said.

Novatek has deals with both Belgium's Fluxys and France's Engie for transshipment services -- allowing the icebreaking vessels from Yamal LNG to offload onto other LNG tankers -- at Zeebrugge and Montoir, respectively.

From there, the Yamal LNG-sourced LNG can access world markets.

The Fluxys transshipment deal is for up to 8 million mt/year of LNG, while the Engie deal is for 1 million mt/year. Both are booked on a long-term basis.

According to Fluxys, the possibility for a transshipment shipper to unload LNG for sendout is currently not envisaged under the transshipment agreement.

Novatek CEO Leonid Mikhelson said Monday that with the sailing of the Christophe de Margerie from the port of Sabetta, Novatek had officially entered the global gas market.

"This event begins the process of developing and liquefying our massive natural gas resources on the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas into more than 70 million mt of LNG," Mikhelson said.

Novatek owns a 50.1% stake in Yamal LNG and operates the project with Total (20%) and China's CNPC (20%) and Silk Road Fund (9.9%).

--Stuart Elliott,

--Luke Stobbart,

--Edited by Alisdair Bowles,