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50 Leonid Mikhelson, Novatek

Russia's richest billionaire Leonid Mikhelson has thrown his support behind bolstering the country's liquefied natural gas shipments via the Northern Sea Route to key markets including Asia

Chairman has sanctioned the second major LNG export project in Russia's Arctic

RUSSIA’S richest man Leonid Mikhelson has seen his fortune expand by the billions since the country’s largest private gas producer, Novatek, started exporting liquefied natural gas.

Forbes magazine estimated Mr Mikhelson’s net worth amounted to $27.8bn as of May 11, just under 18 months after Novatek’s Yamal LNG project shipped its first LNG cargo.

The two-train Yamal LNG, boasting 17.4 m tonnes of capacity, remains Russia’s first and only privately owned project to have exported LNG so far.

An update to Russia’s gas export law and export trade law passed in November 2013 paved the way for the project partners — two others holding minority stakes are Total and China National Petroleum Corp — to sell LNG cargoes to buyers overseas.

The project has shrugged off early threats from the US sanctions imposed on Russia post Crimea proclaiming independence from Ukraine to secure buyer interest for its cargoes.

As of August, Yamal LNG had already shipped 20m tonnes of cargoes. Its apparent commercial success has lifted Novatek’s share valuation and boosted Mr Mikhelson’s net worth.

These shipments include one cargo transported by the LNG tanker Vladimir Rusanov from Sabetta to Tianjin via the Northern Sea Route in about 16 days. That voyage reportedly set a new record for a cargo shipment via the NSR without ice-breaking support.

Mr Mikhelson spelt out Novatek’s intent to ramp up LNG production along the peninsulas of Yamal and Gydan over the next decade at the International Arctic Forum held in St Petersburg earlier this year.

That would work hand-in-hand with Novatek’s conscious efforts at bringing a 15-strong fleet of Arc7 ice-class LNG carriers, including Vladimir Rusanov, into operation before the year-end, to underpin Russia’s ambition to boost direct shipments to Asia via NSR.

In September, Novatek sanctioned its second LNG export project, the three-train Arctic LNG 2, capable of producing 19.8m tonnes of LNG and at least 1.6m tonnes of condensate annually.

Arctic LNG 2 and Yamal LNG are expected to contribute 41m tonnes of LNG shipments, or the bulk of more than 92m tonnes of exports projected to be shipped via the NSR by 2024, according to one estimate released at the St Petersburg forum.

Mr Mikhelson also appeared in the Top 100 in 2018.  


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