Production starts at Senegal's first offshore oil project

Production has started at Senegal's first offshore oil project

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Production has started at Senegal's first offshore oil project, the Australian group Woodside Energy said Tuesday, as the country's new government eyes higher profits from natural resources.

"This is a historic day for Senegal and for Woodside," the company's chief executive, Meg O'Neill, said in a statement.

The vessel extracting the oil is moored about 100 kilometers (60 miles) offshore at the Sangomar oil fields. The project aims to produce 100,000 barrels of oil per day, the statement said.

The discovery of oil and gas off the coast of Senegal in 2014 raised hopes that the industry could generate billions of dollars in revenue for the developing country and transform its economy. But the new government, which came to power earlier this year, pledged to review oil and gas contracts with foreign companies, which it described as unfavorable to Senegal.

“The exploitation of our natural resources, which according to the constitution belong to the people, will receive particular attention from my government,” President Bassirou Diomaye Faye said in his first address to the nation in April. “I will proceed with the disclosure of the effective ownership of extractive companies (and) with an audit of the mining, oil, and gas sector.”

At a rally in Dakar on Sunday, Prime Minister Ousmane Sonko reaffirmed his administration's commitment to reviewing the contracts and promised that the country’s share will be guaranteed.

“We will face multinationals,” he said.

Woodside Energy has an 82% stake in the project and the state-owned energy company Petrosen holds the remainder. While Senegal’s fossil fuel output is not expected to be as great as that of bigger producers such as Nigeria, Petrosen is expecting the sector to generate more than $1 billion per year over the next three decades.

“First oil from the Sangomar field marks a new era not only for our country’s industry and economy, but most importantly for our people," the general manager of Petrosen, Thierno Ly, said in the statement.

The country also has a liquified natural gas project at the border with Mauritania and extraction is scheduled to begin at the end of this year.

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