Total emerged as Russia's favoured energy partner on Wednesday, with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin inviting the French major to take part in some of its largest gas projects after meeting its chief executive.

Putin welcomed Total's participation in future stages of the giant Shtokman field, which is being led by Russia's Gazprom (GAZP.MM: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), and said the French company could invest $1 billion in the Yamal development with another Russian gas firm, Novatek (NVTK.MM: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).

Total Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie, on a visit to Moscow, expressed his gratitude to Putin. I don't think it's difficult to work in Russia, he said. One only needs to learn, one needs to learn to work effectively with Gazprom.

Britain's BP (BP.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) had a bumpy ride during its 15 years in Russia, marked by multiple disagreements with a quartet of Soviet-born oligarchs who share ownership of its TNK-BP joint venture. [ID:nLQ109843]

A government source later told Reuters that Total would sign a deal with Novatek later on Wednesday to develop a gas field on the Yamal peninsula in northern Russia.

De Margerie also said he had already held talks with Gazprom on participating in liquified natural gas projects on Yamal.

Russia is counting on Yamal -- which needs investments of up to $60 billion and should produce 250 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas per year by 2020 -- for the bulk of its gas supply to Europe in decades to come.

Total is already Gazprom's partner in the first stage of the $25 billion Barents Sea Shtokman gas project, but partners for the second stage of the development have not been selected.

I know that you have offered to expand our cooperation and take part not only in the current stage of the project, but in future stages. This is totally possible, Putin said of the off-shore Shtokman project.