* Crude oil output up yr-on-yr for first time since Oct 2015
* But year-to-date production still down 2 pct
* Crude runs fall to lowest since December
* Gas output rises ahead of critical winter heating season (Recasts on rise in output, adds comment)
BEIJING, Sept 14 (Reuters) - China’s crude oil output rose in August for the first time in nearly three years, data showed on Friday, climbing after President Xi Jinping called for a boost to national energy security amid trade tensions with the United States.
Monthly crude oil output hit 16 million tonnes, or 3.77 million bpd, up 0.2 percent from August last year and marking the first year-on-year increase in tonnes and barrels per day (bpd) since October 2015, according to the data from National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
Year-to-date output was 125.95 million tonnes, down 1.8 percent from a year earlier. That equates to 3.78 million bpd.
National energy majors raised output in August as international oil prices approached $80 a barrel and after the state call to ramp up local oil and gas output amid the escalating trade war with the United States, experts said.
“The state oil companies need to show some sort of support for President Xi’s call to boost domestic supplies,” said Seng-Yick Tee at consultancy SIA Energy.
Most Chinese oilfields can break even with oil at $70 per barrel, he added. Benchmark global prices stood at around $78 on Friday.
The data also showed China’s crude processing rate fell in August to its lowest since December, with independent refiners prolonging maintenance shutdowns as higher oil prices and a new tax regime ate into margins.
China refined 50.31 million tonnes of crude oil in August, or 11.85 million barrels per day (bpd), up 5.6 from a year ago. The pace of processing fell from 11.95 million bpd in July and compared with a record-high of 12.13 million bpd in March.
For the first eight months, crude runs were up 8.7 percent at 400.41 million tonnes, or 12.03 million bpd.
Meanwhile, China’s natural gas production rose 9.7 percent in August over the same year-ago level to 12.9 billion cubic metres (bcm). That was down from 12.96 bcm in July.
Output for the year-to-date was 104 bcm, up 5.9 percent as producers gear up for peak-demand over winter, with the country continuing its drive to switch households and businesses to gas for heating.
Tonne = 7.3 barrels for crude oil conversion Reporting by Josephine Mason and Meng Meng; Additional reporting by Chen Aizhu; Editing by Richard Pullin and Joseph Radford