Ukraine gas consumption may fall 5 pct in 2016 - Naftogaz

KIEV, March 23 (Reuters) - Natural gas consumption in Ukraine is likely to fall to around 32 billion cubic meters (bcm) this year from 33.7 bcm in 2015, mostly due to lower household consumption, the head of Ukraine state energy firm Naftogaz said on Wednesday.

Gas consumption in Ukraine dropped 21 percent last year due to an economic slowdown and a suspension of gas supplies to separatist-held territory in the eastern part of the country.

“We are revising our gas balance for this year because there is a decrease in consumption of households,” Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolev told journalists.

Household consumption fell 22.6 percent in 2015.

Kobolev said high gas reserves would allow the company to inject less gas into underground storage this year, and the company planned to start this process in April.

Ukraine had around 9.1 bcm in gas reserves as of March 21, up 17 percent from 7.8 bcm a year earlier. This reserve was enough to safeguard winter supply and the stable transit of Russian gas to Europe, it said.

The European Union receives about 40 percent of its Russian gas imports via Ukraine.

Ukrainian energy minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn said this month the country was likely to pump 11 bcm of natural gas into underground storage this year.

The country, which is still in a protracted gas pricing dispute with Russia, has been seeking to cover its needs with its own production and supplies from Europe. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Mark Potter)