Russia limits exports of noble gases, a key ingredient for making chips

(This June 2 story corrects paragraph five to show that Russia accounts for 30% supply of three noble gases, not all noble gases)

(Reuters) - Sanctions-hit Russia has limited exports of noble gases such as neon, a key ingredient for making chips, until the end of 2022 to strengthen its market position, its trade ministry said on Thursday.

Russia's export curbs could worsen the supply crunch in the global chips market. Ukraine was one of the world's largest suppliers of noble gases until it suspended production at its plants in the cities of Mariupol and Odesa in March.

Exports of noble gases, which Russia used to supply to Japan and other countries, will be allowed only with special state permission until Dec. 31, the Russian government said on May 30.

The move will provide an opportunity to "rearrange those chains that have now been broken and build new ones," Deputy Trade Minister Vasily Shpak told Reuters via the ministry's press service on Thursday.

Russia accounts for 30% of the global supply of three noble gases - neon, krypton and xenon, according to the ministry's estimate.

Taiwan, the world's leading producer of chips, imposed curbs on exports of this product to Russia after Moscow sent thousands of troops to Ukraine on Feb. 24.

"We plan to increase our production capacity (of noble gases) in the near future. We believe that we will have an opportunity to be heard in this global chain, and this will give us some competitive advantage if it is necessary to build mutually beneficial negotiations with our colleagues," Shpak said.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Richard Chang)