Russian state-run gas monopoly Gazprom plans to launch coalbed methane pilot production in the Kuzbass coalbasin in 2011, Gazprom Deputy Chairman Valery Golubev said on Monday.

"We have been working on this issue since 2001. The first stage includes an evaluation survey and geological exploration. In 2011-2015, we will be ready to launch test production at top-priority sites in order to boost coal production," Golubev said, adding that the company's annual investment into the project totaled 1 billion rubles ($32 million).

"We have worked out several particular technologies and we are ready to introduce them to a certain extent, which means we are planning to launch commercial methane production in 2016," he said.

Gazprom plans to produce about four billion cubic meters of gas annually to provide the Kemerovo region with fuel. The area is currently supplied by gas from the Tyumen and Omsk regions.

The Kuzbass methane reserves are estimated at 13 trillion cubic meters. Gazprom plans to produce about 18-20 bcm from the coalfields in the south of Siberia.

The idea of extracting methane from coalfields was revived after deadly blasts caused by methane which hit the Raspadskaya mine, killing 67 people and trapping more than 100 others on May 9, 2010. Twenty-three miners are still missing.

Golubev said Gazprom could not produce methane gas until the state provides a regulatory framework. "The state should make amendments to the Russian Classification of Reserves and introduce 'coalbed methane' into it," he said.

"We have decided that the development of new mines will be launched after removing all the methane from coalfields," Presidential Envoy to the Siberian Federal District Anatoly Kvashnin said. "Methane is very convenient, and sometimes there are no alternatives to it even in the Kemerovo region," he added.