VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (Reuters) - Production of hard-to-recover oil in Russia is expected to rise by 10 percent to 43 million tonnes (860,000 barrels per day) this year, boosted by tax incentives, Russian Deputy Energy Minister Pavel Sorokin said in an interview.
He also said the government had no immediate plan to reduce oil exports in order to curb an increase in domestic fuel prices.
Russia is pinning its hopes on hard-to-recover oil, hidden beneath non-porous rocks, as conventional oil reserves in West Siberia, its main oil-producing region, are becoming increasingly depleted.
As part of Western sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine, the United States imposed restrictions on providing Russia with technology for hard-to-recover oil, also known as shale oil.
But despite the sanctions, oil production, including hard-to-recover crude, is growing.
“Many of our companies have advanced in this direction,” Sorokin said of Russian producers’ ability to extract such oil.
“We expect that the production of hard-to-recover oil will rise from 39 million tonnes (in 2017) to 43 million tonnes by the end of 2018,” he said.
Russia’s oilfield licenses regulator Rosnedra has put the country’s hard-to-recover oil reserves at around 12 billion tonnes, or 88 billion barrels - two-thirds of all Russian oil reserves, and enough to supply the world with oil for 20 years.
The state has introduced tax incentives for hard-to-recover oil production, including a zero-rate mineral extraction tax.
Overall oil production in Russia is seen at 553 million tonnes this year, up from 547 million tonnes last year.
Sorokin, who with Energy Minister Alexander Novak has been heading Russia’s efforts to forge closer ties with oil producer group OPEC, said Moscow had no immediate plan to restrict oil exports in order to dampen domestic fuel prices.
It is more profitable for companies to sell fuel abroad than on the domestic market for several reasons, including the weakening of the rouble.
“We’re not talking about physical restrictions at the moment,” the deputy minister said, adding that there are no fuel shortages on the domestic market.
Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Dale Hudson