Ukraine to buy offshore rigs to boost gas output, reduce imports

KIEV, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Ukraine will buy two offshore platforms to boost domestic natural gas output, state oil and gas firm Naftogaz said on Tuesday, as the country seeks to ease its dependence on imports from Russia.

Naftogaz said it would buy the platforms in open tenders and expected them to cost about $1.4 billion. Proposals will be accepted until Oct. 29, it said.

The company said it planned to use the facilities to explore oil and gas fields on the country's Black Sea shelf.

Ukraine imports about a half its gas from Russia at a price that has risen steadily for the past few years and is expected to reach $432 per thousand cubic metres in the fourth quarter. Kiev bought gas at $400 in the fourth quarter last year.

Moscow has said it will cut the price only if Russia's Gazprom is allowed to buy into Ukrainian gas pipelines, which carry the bulk of Russian gas to Europe - a trade-off Ukraine has so far refused to accept.

Talks on reviewing the price formula have lasted for more than two and a half years but so far failed to produce results.

Earlier this year Ukraine selected a consortium led by ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell to explore the Skifska oil and gas field on Black Sea shelf.

The Skifska field has a potential annual yield of 3-4 billion cubic metres of hydrocarbons. Another Black Sea field, Foroska, could yield 2-3 billion cubic metres a year.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Pravin Char)

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