April 11 (UPI) -- Novatek, the largest private natural gas producer in Russia, said first quarter gas production was down nearly 10 percent from last year.
The company reported preliminary production for the first quarter of the year at 11.8 million barrels of oil equivalent, about 8.5 percent lower than the first quarter of 2016. As of March 31, the company said it had more than 3 billion cubic feet of natural gas in either storage, transit or as recognized inventory.
The Russian company last year set its sights on growing gas markets in Asia by signing a memorandum of understanding with Japan's Marubeni Corp. Under the terms of the understanding, both sides will explore options for supplies of liquefied natural gas possibly from an Arctic line.
Oil and natural gas are among Russia's top export commodities.
Japan started taking on more natural gas to make up for the loss of nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi reactor meltdown in 2011. With the restart of some reactors, however, demand for gas could start moving lower on sector diversity and economic grounds. Japan's consumption of electricity has declined for five straight years.
For sales, which include markets outside of Asia, the Russian company said preliminary figures for the first quarter were 5.5 percent higher year-on-year.