* Mexican crude output down 6.8 pct in 2009
* Output rises in December vs November
* Ku Maloob Zaap produces at record rate in December (Adds details on individual field production, paragraphs 4-10; adds byline)
By Robert Campbell
MEXICO CITY, Jan 22 Mexican oil production fell for the fifth year in a row last year but the pace of the slide slowed and output rose in December from November, according to data released by state oil monopoly Pemex on Friday.
Mexico pumped 2.601 million barrels of oil per day in 2009, the lowest annual rate of production since 1990, as yields at the giant Cantarell field continued to decline and output at Pemex's flagship Chicontepec project failed to increase.
Production fell 6.8 percent compared with 2008 but the rate of decline slowed from that year and monthly production figures appeared to be stabilizing. Pemex produced 2.593 million bpd in December, 40,000 bpd more than in November.
The rise in production in December was due to the Ku Maloob Zaap field producing at a record high 849,425 bpd, close to the maximum level it is believed capable of yielding.
Output from the Chicontepec project, which Pemex had hoped would offset the decline of Cantarell, slipped 410 bpd to 29,367 bpd, less than half of Pemex's original goal for the field in 2009.
Cantarell pumped 599,021 bpd, the first time the Cantarell field and its associated satelites have yielded less than 600,000 bpd and a 3.6 percent decline from November.
Over the last 12 months, output at Cantarell has fallen 29.8 percent, a slower decline than in the previous year but still a dramatic slide.
Despite December's small increase in overall Mexican oil production, steadily declining output from the world's seventh-largest producer has contributed to concerns that diminishing supply from mature basins will make it even harder for the world to meet growing demand from emerging oil consumers, one of the key factors that underpin long-term oil investment.
It is also causing growing headaches for Mexican policymakers who rely on revenues generated by crude exports to fund about a third of the federal budget.
Shipments of crude to overseas customers declined to 1.225 million bpd in 2009 from 1.403 million bpd in 2008.
Officials say they have come to grips with the dramatic production decline at Cantarell, one of the country's largest fields, that has sent Mexican output tumbling by nearly a quarter since 2004. But investors remain skeptical given Pemex's long record of failing to deliver on promised production stability.
Mexico's new Hydrocarbons Commission, created under reforms to the country's energy legislation at the end of 2008, released preliminary production data on its website that showed Mexican oil production reaching 2.615 million bpd in December.
Officials were not immediately available to explain the difference between the two reports. (Reporting by Jason Lange and Robert Campbell)