Russia has begun gas supplies to China via the Power of Siberia pipeline, the largest gas project in its history and a symbol of Moscow’s diplomatic pivot towards Beijing at a time of worsening relations with the west.
The "Power of Siberia" project will see a gas pipeline stretching from the Chayandinskoye and Kovyktinskoye fields in Russia's east over more than 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) to Liaoning in northeastern China.
The project, which Putin has called "the world's biggest construction project," is set to last 30 years and pump $400 billion (€363 billion) into Russia's economy.
It should export 38 billion cubic meters of gas annually when fully operational in 2025, according to a statement released by the Kremlin.
Russian company Gazprom secured the contract in 2014 following an agreement between Russia and China.
For China, Asia’s largest economy, the project will help to ensure its energy security amid declining domestic gas production and rising demand. It should also help combat air pollution in the coal-dependent north-eastern regions.
Pipeline as a symbol of friendship
Xi and Putin, who both attended the opening ceremony via video link, spoke of the project as a symbol of growing cooperation between the two nations.
said Putin."This step takes Russo-Chinese strategic cooperation in energy to a qualitative new level and brings us closer to fulfilling the task, set together with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, of taking bilateral trade to $200 billion (€181 billion) by 2024,"
Putin added that it was "a genuinely historical event."
Mr Xi said.“The gas pipeline launch is an important transitional result and the start of a new stage of our co-operation,” Mr Xi said. “Together with Mr Putin we have announced our relations’ development, all-encompassing partnership and strategic co-operation entering a new epoch, and agreed that developing Russia-China relations is and will be a priority in our countries’ foreign policy. We will strengthen co-operation in various areas between our countries,”
China has become heavily involved in Russia’s gas projects in the past years, becoming the largest foreign shareholder in Russia’s Arctic gas liquefaction projects, Yamal LNG and planned Arctic LNG 2.
China is also still in talks with Gazprom on two additional gas pipelines: Power of Siberia 2, that will deliver 30bn cubic metres a year to China’s western border with Russia; and another smaller pipeline from Sakhalin Island.
When the pipeline hits full capacity it could make China the second-largest gas customer after Germany, which bought 58.5 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia in 2018.
China was the world's fifth largest importer of natural gas in 2016, according to CIA statistics.
Gazprom is also building the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline , which is set to double Russian gas output across the Baltic to Europe.