* Official says 200,000 bpd possible within five years
* Vanco, Tullow announced recent discoveries
* Oil exploration booming off West Africa
By Loucoumane Coulibaly
ABIDJAN, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Ivory Coast hopes to raise its oil output to around 200,000 barrels per day in five years from 32,000 bpd now thanks to recent discoveries and ongoing exploratory drilling, a top oil official said.
Oil exploration off Africa’s west coast has risen sharply since Ivory Coast’s neighbour Ghana discovered a large field in 2007 and brought it into production in record time in late 2010.
Oil firm Vanco Cote d‘Ivoire announced in December it had found light oil on Ivory Coast’s offshore block CI-401, six months after U.K.-based Tullow Oil said it struck light oil on block CI-103.
“With these discoveries and the projected investments, Ivory Coast will be able to realise its target of raising output from around 32,000 barrels per day now to around 200,000 bpd in the five years ahead,” Ibrahima Diaby, head of hydrocarbons at the Ministry of Mines, Petroleum and Energy told Reuters in an interview.
He said Vanco and Tullow were planning further drilling on their discoveries in 2013 and 2014 to clarify reserves.
Oil output has fallen nearly in half in Ivory Coast due to technical problems and low levels of investment during a decade of political turmoil that culminated in a 2011 civil war.
But Diaby said that Ivory Coast had signed 14 new production sharing contracts since the end of the war and had seen a boom in exploration activity by international oil firms, including France’s Total, and U.S.-based Anadarko.
He said the government had also signed three exclusive exploitation deals for natural gas fields in 2012, including two with Ivory Coast-based Foxtrot and one with Rialto. He said natural gas production in the country could rise to 250 million cubic feet per day from 170 mmcfd currently.
Diaby said Ivory Coast remained in talks with Ghana over their shared land and sea border. Both sides have played down the talks, saying there was no evidence rights to a key oil find were at stake.
The world’s top cocoa grower, Ivory Coast is seeking to diversify its economy, in part by boosting its energy and mining sectors. Diaby said some 800 billion CFA francs ($1.6 billion) worth of investments were planned in the energy sector, with funds coming from state firm Petroci as well as partners in Europe and the United States. He gave no details.