* Exports to Europe, Turkey hit 193.9 bcm
* Production up 12.4 percent to 471 bcm (Adds detail, quotes)
By Vladimir Soldatkin
MOSCOW, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Russia’s gas exports to Europe and Turkey rose by 8.1 percent to a record high 193.9 billion cubic metres (bcm) in 2017, Alexei Miller, head of Gazprom, said in a statement on Wednesday, despite EU efforts to cut its reliance on Russian energy.
Gazprom, run by Miller, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, supplies more than a third of the European Union’s gas.
However, the European Commission has called on EU member states to curb their reliance on Russian energy following Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and a clash over gas deliveries between Kiev and Moscow that saw Gazprom cut off supply.
“The rising trend of the record-high data for the second year in a row shows, on one hand, a rising demand for the Russian gas in Europe, and on the other hand, its secure supply in necessary volumes,” Miller said.
Gazprom said its gas deliveries to its largest customer, Germany, jumped by 7.1 percent to 53.4 bcm last year, a new record high.
Its 2017 gas production, the world’s largest, rose by 12.4 percent to 471 bcm, Miller said.
To help safeguard its market share, Gazprom has quietly agreed price deals with big customers and caved in to EU rules it once flouted. Gazprom sources said they have drawn lessons from recent defeats on the European gas market.
Lithuania, which began importing LNG from Norway in 2014 and became the first ex-Soviet state to buy U.S. natural gas in August, refused to renew its contract in 2015.
The company faces more trouble, analysts said, as its major long-term contracts expire between 2021 and 2035.
Poland, a gas client since 1944, has said it will not renew its contract in 2022.
Gazprom only exports its pipelined gas westward. It plans to start selling gas to China to the east in December 2019 with annual volumes peaking at 38 bcm via the Power of Siberia pipeline, which is under construction.
In Asia Gazprom faces competition from Russia’s top non-state gas company, Novatek, which started selling seaborne liquefied natural gas from its YAMAL LNG project last month. (Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Jason Neely)