(QHA) -

Ukraine said Thursday it has reached a natural gas production-sharing agreement with a consortium led by Exxon and Shell, its latest step toward energy diversification and reducing its dependence on Russia, AFP reports.

The consortium, which also includes Romanian energy group Petrom and Ukraine's state-owned Nadra Ukrainy, will extract natural gas on the Skifski site off Ukraine's Black Sea coast.

An initial accord was signed by Ukrainian Energy Minister Eduard Stavytsky and representatives of Exxon, Shell, and Petrom on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, the Ukrainian presidential press service said.

The sides agreed to sign a formal production-sharing agreement within a month in the Ukrainian capital Kiev. Skifski, which is located in the northwest part of the Black Sea, near Romania, is expected to provide 8 to 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year, Stavytsky said.

The agreement is seen as a further step in Ukraine's aspiration to diversify its energy sources, as the ex-Soviet nation continues to rely heavily on gas imports from its huge eastern neighbor Russia.

It hopes to renegotiate the terms of a 10-year gas deal it signed in 2009 with Moscow that sets high purchase prices.

As reported, the Shell/Exxon deal came after recent moves by Ukraine to draw closer to the European Union and away from Russia, which has threatened trade sanctions as it tries to keep Kiev in its zone of influence.

QHA