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New Republic of Congo oil discovery could be game changer: minister

Highlights

Delta de le Cuvette block could produce 983,000 b/d

Production currently averages 350,000 b/d

London — A new giant oil find in the onshore blocks of the Republic of Congo could help take its oil output to new heights and make it a significant crude producer in Africa, oil minister Jean-Marc Tchicaya told S&P Global Platts Tuesday.

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A consortium comprising of local companies -- SARPD Oil and Petroleum Exploration & Production Africa -- said they found oil in the onshore Delta de la Cuvette license in the north of the country.

Tchicaya, speaking in a telephone interview, said this discovery could add "around 359 million barrels of oil or 983,000 b/d."

"This is our first onshore discovery and it gives us a lot of hope that we shall make more discoveries especially now that we are to award more blocks for oil exploration in the ongoing oil licensing round," he said.

The OPEC member currently produces around 350,000 b/d of crude and is the third-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa.

The two companies have been drilling since March in one of the license's four blocks since March, and hope to find more oil in coming months.

The Delta de la Cuvette covers an area of 9,392 square meters and is not far from the northern city of Oyo.

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Production boost

The minister is hopeful that this find will drive even more interest in the country's recent oil licensing round.

"We are receiving bids and expect to start negotiations with successful applicants and award PSAs by the end of this year," he added.

The licensing round, launched two years ago, has stalled as a lack of firm bidding interest because of reduced exploration work due to low oil prices were affecting the appeal and viability of such projects.

Crude output from the Republic of Congo has risen steadily in the past two years mainly due to the ramp up of the offshore Moho Nord oil project which came on stream in March 2017.

Congo's crude production, has risen to around 350,000 b/d now from 240,000 b/d in 2017.

Congo's economy which is extremely reliant on oil has been in trouble due to lower oil prices, and also because of its significant debts, especially to China.

Last month, the International Monetary Fund said it would bail out the Central African country, approving a $448.6-million arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility to support the country's economic and financial reform program.

The OPEC member currently exports three main crude grades -- the heavy sweet Djeno, the light sweet N'Kossa and the heavyYombo.

Djeno is the country's flagship export grade and production has ranged between 200,000 and 250,000 b/d in the past 12 months. Djeno is extremely popular with Chinese refiners because it yields a high amount of vacuum gasoil and fuel oil and is also low in sulfur, traders say.

-- Eklavya Gupte, eklavya.gupte@spglobal.com

-- Namala Doreen, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Jonathan Dart, jonathan.dart@spglobal.com