MOSCOW Oil output in Russia, one of the world's largest producers, hit a post-Soviet high last month and in 2015 as small- and medium-sized energy companies cranked up the pumps despite falling crude prices, Energy Ministry data showed on Saturday.
The rise shows producers are taking advantage of lower costs due to rouble devaluation and signals Moscow's resolve not to give in to producer group OPEC's request to curb oil output to support prices.
But the rise will contribute to a global oil supply glut and exert continued downward pressure on oil prices which hit an 11-year low near $36 per barrel last month, having fallen almost 70 percent in the past 18 months.
For the whole of 2015, Russian oil and gas condensate output rose to more than 534 million tonnes, or 10.73 million barrels per day (bpd) from 10.58 million bpd in 2014.
In December, Russian oil output rose to 10.83 million bpd from 10.78 million bpd in November. In tonnes, oil output was 45.782 million last month versus 44.115 million in November.
The increase in production defied many expectations of a fall in Russian oil output which has been on a steady rise since 1998 apart from a small decline in 2008.
The Energy Ministry had expected output to fall to 525 million tonnes in 2015 due to the exhaustion of mature oilfields in Western Siberia, which account for over a half of the country's total oil production.
But medium-sized producers, such as Bashneft, cranked up production. And Gazprom, the world's top natural gas producer, increased production of oil, mainly gas condensate, by 5.3 percent for the year.
However, oil output at Russia's leading producers declined.
Production at Rosneft edged down by 0.9 percent, while output at Lukoil's Russian assets fell by 1.1 percent last year.
According to a Reuters poll, Russian oil production in 2016 is expected to rise to a new post-Soviet yearly average high of 10.78 million bpd despite price falls as new fields come online and producers enjoy lower costs due to rouble devaluation.
Natural gas production in Russia was 63.31 billion cubic metres (bcm) last month, or 2.04 bcm a day, versus 60.8 bcm in November.
For the year, it declined by 0.8 percent to 635.3 bcm.
The ministry did not disclose separate production figures for Gazprom, which has been losing domestic market share to other producers such as Novatek and Rosneft.
Pipeline oil exports from Russia rose to 210.813 million tonnes in 2015, or 4.234 million bpd from 195.542 million tonnes in 2014.
In December, it was 17.269 million tonnes, or 4.083 million bpd, down from 4.318 million bpd in November.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Susan Thomas)