PARIS  - French energy company Total is seeking the equivalent of up to $15 billion from Chinese investors to finance its part of the development of a giant gas field in Russia due to US sanctions, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

With US sanctions on Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis blocking investments there in dollars, Total chief executive Patrick Pouyanne told the newspaper it was looking at Chinese investors to help finance its part of the $27 billion Yamal liquefied-natural gas project in the Russian Arctic.

"You have a strong willingness to build the project financing" from the Chinese financial institutions, the Wall Street Journal quoted him as saying.

"It's not an easy task, to be clear. We would have preferred to do it with dollars."

Pouyanne said he hoped to have the $10 billion to $15 billion in financing, which may be in euros and yuan, secured by the middle of the year. He did not cite which institutions may be involved.

The Wall Street Journal said the deal could become the largest reported private corporate deal that Chinese banks have taken part in, beating the $12 billion syndicated loan to Daimler AG in 2013 in which two of the 34 banks were Chinese.

China is already involved in the Yamal project as China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) has a 20 percent stake, the same as Total.

Private Russian company Novatek holds the majority 60 percent stake which aims to begin shipping LNG from the Russian far north in a couple of years.

Pouyanne also announced that exploration for shale oil in the Bazhenov area of western Siberia, which was supposed to get underway this year with Russian oil company Lukoil, had been put on hold due to European sanctions. Shares in Total were down 1.77 percent to 46.79 euros in morning trading while the Paris CAC 40 index shed 0.83 percent overall.