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Russia's oil output may slide 0.3% in 2008 - energy official

MOSCOW, October 23 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's oil production may decrease 0.3% to 490 million metric tons in 2008, an energy ministry official said on Thursday.

"If nothing out of the ordinary happens, [crude output] could fall by one million tons to 490 million tons. However, we could possibly keep it at 491 million tons due to the launch of the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean oil pipeline and LUKoil's new projects," said Vitaly Karaganov, director of the ministry's oil and gas department.

The ESPO pipeline is slated to pump up to 1.6 million barrels of crude per day from Siberia to Russia's Far East and then onto China and the Asia-Pacific region. A 1,100 km leg of the pipeline was opened in early October in Russia's Far Eastern republic of Yakutia, which may soon see the launch of new production projects.

Speaking about natural gas production, Karaganov forecast a 1.5% growth year-on-year unless the upcoming winter turns out to be untypically warm.

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