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Production starts at Senegal’s first offshore oil field

Dakar – Senegal joined the club of oil-producing countries on Tuesday as Australian group Woodside Energy announced that production had started in the west African country’s first offshore project.

While Senegal’s fossil fuel output is not expected to be as high as that of bigger producers such as Nigeria, there are hopes the oil and gas industry will bring billions of dollars in revenue to the country and contribute to transforming its economy.

“This is a historic day for Senegal and for Woodside,” said the company’s chief executive, Meg O’Neill, calling the extraction of “first oil” from the Sangomar field “a key milestone”.

The floating facility is moored about 100 kilometres (60 miles) offshore. The vessel has a storage capacity of 1.3 million barrels, Woodside said.

The deepwater project aims to produce 100,000 barrels of oil per day. The field also contains natural gas.

Woodside has an 82-percent stake in the deepwater project with the remainder held by Senegal’s state-owned energy company Petrosen.

The discovery of oil and gas fields in 2014 raised great hopes for the developing country, with state-owned energy firm Petrosen expecting the sector to generate more than $1 billion per year over the next three decades.

Petrosen general manager Thierno Ly said the start of production marked “a new era” for Senegal’s “industry and economy”.

“We have never been so well positioned for opportunities for growth, innovation and success in the economic and social development of our nation,” he said.

The Phase 1 development of the Sangomar field comprises 23 wells, 21 of which have been drilled.

Senegalese President Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who took office in April, has announced the renegotiation of oil and gas contracts as part of reforms he promised during the election campaign.

– Climate change –

Senegal also has a liquefied natural gas project at its border with Mauritania and production there could begin in the third quarter.

The Greater Tortue Ahmeyim LNG project — which involves British energy giant BP, US firm Kosmos Energy, Mauritanian oil and gas company SHM and Petrosen — aims to produce around 2.5 million tonnes of LNG per year.

Several African countries are pursuing oil and gas projects despite pressure on nations worldwide to phase out fossil fuels, which generate climate-heating greenhouse gases.

The African nations concerned argue it is unfair to impose such restrictions on them when the West has become rich from fossil fuels.

At the same time, the continent is already bearing the brunt of rising temperatures and changing rain patterns, which the United Nations says are “threatening human health and safety, food and water security and socio-economic development in Africa”.

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