KIEV, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Ukraine, eager to reduce its dependence on expensive Russian natural gas, cut gas consumption by 7.6 percent to 54.8 billion cubic meters in 2012, according to data published by the Energy Ministry on Friday.
The data showed that the former Soviet republic consumed 59.3 bcm of gas in 2011. It also showed that cold weather in December 2012 had caused a 17 percent increase in consumption against December 2011.
Domestic gas production edged up by 0.4 percent last year to 20.19 bcm.
Russia remains the main gas supplier to Ukraine, but Kiev is trying to replace some imports by drawing on its own limited resources of the fuel and by making more use of its abundant coal reserves.
On Thursday, Ukraine took its first major step away from dependency on Russian gas imports, signing a $10 billion shale gas deal with Royal Dutch Shell.
The 50-year production sharing agreement marks the biggest contract yet to tap shale gas in Europe and the largest foreign investment in the 46-million people republic.
Ukrainian energy officials have said the deal could allow to produce 20 billion cubic metres of gas in 2018.