While the ninth Russian Petroleum & Gas Congress opened Tuesday with political representatives from places as far apart as Ghana and the European Union hailing their energy ties with Russia, a panel was grappling with how to improve the country's image as a global exporter of fossil fuels.
"The [energy] sector is decoupling from the general development trends of the state in front of our eyes," said Irina Kibina, vice president of TNK-BP.
Kibina added that those looking at the Russian energy sector tend to focus on the powerful oligarchs and the closed nature of many companies.
"Each company lives by its own laws," she said. "Companies must get together and understand that beyond their fences there is a life for which they must also answer."
The Nord Stream pipeline — currently being constructed under the Baltic Sea and in which Gazprom holds a controlling share — was held up as an example of a project that had been successfully marketed to European consumers and politicians.
Before building work could begin, agreements had to be reached with all the countries through whose maritime territory the pipeline would pass. Irina Vasilyeva, head of public relations for Nord Stream, said this process involved a lot of communications work along with political and business lobbying.
The company's PR strategy was to stress its European links and the large number of Europeans who worked on its staff.
"Above all we tried to distance ourselves from Russia," she said.