January 17, 2019 / 2:49 PM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-Russia unable to cut oil production sharply - minister

(Adds detail, quote)

MOSCOW, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Russia is unable to reduce oil output sharply but will try to do so more quickly, Energy Minister Alexander Novak was quoted as saying on Thursday, after ally Saudi Arabia criticised Moscow over the pace of its cuts.

There are technological limitations for reducing oil output in Russia, Interfax news agency cited Novak as saying.

“Russia, as a matter of principle, cannot sharply decrease oil production but we will try to do it faster,” Novak reportedly said.

Earlier this week, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said Russia was cutting its oil production more slowly than expected.

The Saudi-led Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia agreed last month to cut their combined oil output by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) to support a sluggish oil market.

Of that, Russia pledged to curb its output by 228,000 bpd, starting in January. Novak has said Russia will reduce production this month by around 50,000 bpd and reach the target in the first quarter.

Last Friday, Novak said Russian oil production was declining gradually and had fallen by more than 30,000 bpd in January from October’s level, the baseline for the global deal.

Reducing production presents a challenge because the country’s harsh winter climates can cause wells to freeze, Russian officials have said. (Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Polina Ivanova; Editing by Dale Hudson and Alexandra Hudson)

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