Oil Report

DR Congo wants $3 bln pipeline to central oil basin

* Congo aims to start work on 1,500 km pipeline in 2015

* Ministry of oil will bring central basin blocks to 80

KINSHASA, March 26 (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo has set 2015 as a target date for starting construction of a pipeline to export potential oil finds from its central basin to the coast, a senior official said on Friday.

Congo will look to companies and banks to fund the $3 billion, 1,500-km (900 mile) project taking hoped-for oil from blocks under forests in the heart of the country to the coast.

Several oil companies have expressed interest in the Cuvette Centrale’s 21 blocks, but no exploration has started. Blocks 1, 2 and 3 have been allotted to Brazilian company COMICO, pending a presidential decree to start exploring.

“We think we can start buliding the pipeline in 2015,” Joseph Pili Pili, director of projects at the ministry of hydrocarbons, told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference.

“To finance it we will go to the companies, and the banks,” he added, giving the $3 billion price tag.

The pipeline, dubbed “The Reptilian” after its lizard-like across the country, would link the Cuvette Centrale to Matadi river port on the western coast.

Pili Pili also said the ministry of hydrocarbons plans to add more blocks to the area, bringing the total to about 80.

Congo hopes a spate of proposed exploration that has oil majors Total TOTF.PA and Eni ENI.MI interested will bring its stagnant oil sector to life.

Its tiny oil industry, which produces about 25,000 barrels a day from its onshore and offshore blocks in the southwest, is also waiting presidential go-ahead for exploration of blocks -- some of which are disputed -- in the east. (Reporting by Katrina Manson; Editing by David Lewis)