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INTERVIEW-Shell sees 'minor' impact in higher U.S. gas exports to Europe

* Global LNG to remain tight near term due to Japan demand -exec

* Pace of China gas demand growth key to market balance

GOYANG, South Korea, March 24 (Reuters) - Growing interest in sending more U.S. natural gas to Europe does not hold a big threat for Asian gas markets, although such exports would help improve spot market liquidity for the super-chilled form of the fuel, a Shell executive said on Monday.

Tension over the future of Ukraine is prompting the European Union and United States to look at deepening their economic ties. Europe is hoping to tap the abundant energy resources of its key ally to reduce dependence on Russia, which feeds a bulk of the region's gas demand.

It is still unclear how much U.S. gas might eventually go to Europe because Asia is a more lucrative export market. Some U.S. lawmakers also oppose shipping domestic gas overseas, worried prices would rise at home.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) will in the meantime remain tight due to Japan's post-Fukushima demand, until new supply comes onstream from Australia, Angola and Papua New Guinea, Maarten Wetselaar, executive vice president of Royal Dutch Shell's integrated gas division, told Reuters in an interview.

"The effects are relatively minor on the scale of the global gas market, even on the scale of the global energy market," Wetselaar said of potentially higher U.S. LNG exports to Europe.

"I wouldn't expect them to disrupt any of the short-term, medium-term flows going around Asia," he said. Wetselaar is in South Korea for an international gas conference this week.

And while U.S. LNG exports - which are expected to start up from Texas and Louisiana next year - would help to relieve overall supply tightness, Wetselaar said market liquidity would not be so big as that of crude oil.

The pace of China's gas demand growth will also be key to how markets develop over the next few years as new supplies emerge from Australia, East Africa, North America, Russia and the Middle East.

"A big question mark ... is how fast China will grow, and within that, how fast the gas market will grow," he said, noting that gas is "really low" in China's energy mix compared with 20-25 percent in Asia.

China has set a target of raising natural gas' share of its energy mix to 8 percent by 2015, from around 5 percent now.

As for the development of a spot market for LNG, Wetselaar said: "It is clear that with a rise of North American exports where many of the cargoes are not sold on a long-term basis, and have more destination flexibility, the spot market in the future will be bigger than it has been in the past."

Gas investors will still need to sell much of their gas on a long-term basis to finance their LNG projects, and that will remain the main portion of the gas market, he said.

"The (spot) volumes on the market and liquidity of the market will never be anything near crude oil markets," he said, especially considering the technical features of LNG and the expense involved in storing and shipping the fuel.

(Reporting by Meeyoung Cho; Editing by Tom Hogue)