Oil Production Declines For 4th Straight Month

The country's oil production fell for a fourth straight month in April, confirming pessimistic forecasts for the year, while exports rose on the back of improved weather.

Industry and Energy Ministry data released Sunday showed that production stood at 9.72 million barrels per day, down from 9.76 million bpd in March and more than 2 percent lower compared with the post-Soviet high of 9.93 million bpd in October.

In absolute figures, March production was more than 6 million barrels -- the size of six large tankers -- down from October.

Since October, oil production in Russia has been varying between decline and stagnation, prompting many analysts to revise down their production forecasts for 2008. A fall in output this year would come after a decade during which production by the world's second-largest oil exporter soared by more than half from the post-Soviet low of 6 million bpd.

Producers mainly blame heavy taxation amid rising costs for the production decline.

The authorities still expect production to grow by around 1 percent this year after an increase of 2.3 percent in 2007 and much bigger spikes in previous years, including a record 11 percent in 2003.

The data showed that Russian production-sharing projects, which were the key growth drivers in 2007, cut output further to 222,000 bpd in April from 228,000 bpd in March.

Major Siberian firms showed mixed results, with the country's leading producer, Rosneft, raising output to 2.29 million bpd from 2.28 million in March and third-ranked TNK-BP increasing production to 1.37 million from 1.36 million.

But No. 2 firm LUKoil cut output to 1.79 million from 1.80 million in the previous month, fourth-largest producer Surgut kept production flat at 1.23 million and Gazprom Neft, the country's fifth-biggest oil producer, cut output further to 618,000 bpd from 627,000 bpd in the previous month.

Gazprom Neft was one of the worst performers year on year, with its production down by more than 6 percent versus April 2007 alongside Surgut, which cut output by more than 5 percent.

On the export front, supplies via the Transneft pipeline system recovered for a second month in row from the unusually low February levels to reach 4.52 million bpd, up from 4.23 million in March and 3.99 million in February.

Such a high export figure was last seen in September, when oil firms rushed to evacuate more crude ahead of a spike in oil export duties.

Traders have said May could be another record month in terms of exports as oil export duties will reach a new record of around $400 per ton from June following a new rise in global oil prices.

Gas export monopoly Gazprom cut gas output to 48.03 billion cubic meters from 50.48 bcm in March, which was one day longer, as the country needed less gas because of warm weather.