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London — Ghana is pinning its hopes on a major oil production boost following positive results from new drilling on a large oil discovery in a prolific offshore block formerly operated by the US' Hess Corporation.

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Norwegian-based Aker Energy on Thursday said it believes its Deepwater Tano Cape Three Points (DWT/CTP) block could hold up to 1 billion barrels of oil equivalent after successfully appraising the Pecan discovery in the license.

Pecan is the main discovery to date in the DWT/CTP block, which alongside six other oil finds, is now estimated to contain gross contingent resources of up to 550 million boe. But further drilling in the block is planned this year.

Ghana, which currently produces about 200,000 b/d of oil, expects to see oil output to double to 400,000 b/d by 2021 when the block is pumping commercial volumes, Ghana's official news agency GNA reported Friday without citing sources.

A spokesman for Aker played down the output figures, however, saying the company has yet to forecast a firm start-up schedule or estimate likely production levels from the deepwater block.

"We are very positive," company spokesman Hakon Hogetveit said. "But we are working on optimizing the PDO (Plan of Development) at the moment so it's still a work in progress."


First discovered by Hess in 2012, the Pecan field holds light crude that Aker plans to develop with a purpose-built FPSO connected to a subsea production system at 2,400 meters below sea level.

Announcing a $100 million deal to buy out Hess' 50% stake in the DWT/CTP block last year, Aker said it expected to submit development plans for the block by year-end 2018 and anticipated first oil in fourth quarter of 2021.

But the company has since delayed the PDO to include the latest appraisal well data and now expects to submit the final plan by the end of March 2019, Hogetveit said.

More drilling targets will also be drilled as part of a greater area development after submission of the PDO, he said.

"Aker Energy sees great potential in this promising area offshore Ghana. We see the foundation for a phased development producing through several production units," CEO Jan Arve Haugan said in a statement Thursday.

Aker Energy is the operator of the DWT/CTP block with a 50% participating interest. Aker Energy's partners are Lukoil (38%), the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (10%) and Fueltrade (2%).

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Ghana came relatively late to the oil industry compared with its West African neighbors and only began commercial crude production at the Jubilee field in 2010. Ghana's oil output has almost doubled in the past two years with the startup of its two big deepwater oil projects: the TEN field in August 2016 and the Sankofa field in July 2017, part of the Offshore Cape Three Points development.

Speaking to S&P Global Platts in an interview in November, Ghana's energy minister John Amewu said he saw "huge" production potential from new fields coming on from the DWT/CTP block.

Originally awarded to Hess in 2006, the US independent made seven oil discoveries on the block from 2011-2013 but sought unsuccessfully to appraise the Pecan field.

"Ghana will continue to collaborate with and support Aker Energy and its partners as we jointly work to deliver first oil as quickly as possible and ensure significant value is retained in Ghana for the benefit of our people," GNA cited Amewu as saying Friday.

In January 2018, ExxonMobil signed a deal with Ghana to explore the similarly-named Deepwater Cape Three Point offshore block.

The block award was the first since the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea last September favored Ghana in its ocean boundary ruling over a dispute with neighbor Cote d'Ivoire.

--Robert Perkins,

--Edited by Alisdair Bowles,