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ACCRA (Reuters) - Italian oil company ENI (ENI.MI) started oil production from the 45,000 barrel-per-day Sankofa field offshore Ghana on Thursday, giving a boost to the West African country's plans to use its oil resources to revive its economy.
The Sankofa field forms the first phase of the $7.9 billion (6.10 billion pounds) Offshore Cape Three Points project (OCTP), which is expected to also deliver up to 180 million cubic feet of natural gas per day by the end of next year, more than doubling domestic gas supply.
President Nana Akufo-Addo opened the valves on the Floating Production, Storage and Offloading vessel, the John Agyekum Kufuor, named after Ghana's former president who was in office between 2001 and 2008.
Akufo-Addo said Sankofa coming on stream would ensure reliable and affordable clean energy to support economic activities and keep the country on the right path to growth.
"The need for creative thinking to leverage our oil and gas production for national development is a charge for us to keep - and we must not fail our people," he told a gathering of chiefs and oil sector players at the western port city of Takoradi.
Ghana already produces oil from two major fields including the country's flagship Jubilee block which came on stream in late 2010.
Akufo-Addo said he was optimistic that the addition of production from the OCTP to those of the TEN and Jubilee fields would enhance significantly gas supply for domestic power generation.
ENI officials said Sankofa was completed three months ahead of schedule and within budget.
Ghana is recovering from a power crisis caused by lack of funds to buy oil in the absence of domestic gas to power thermal plants. The government estimates gas from OCTP will boost generation by 1,000 megawatts, enough to ensure stable supply.
The country also has a $918 million aid programme from the International Monetary Fund to restore fiscal balance to its economy which has a large budget deficit and big domestic and external debts.
ENI holds a 44.44 percent stake in OCTP, representing the largest foreign direct investment in Ghana's history.
Trading company Vitol [VITOLV.UL] holds 35.56 percent while state oil company Ghana National Petroleum Corporation has a combined carried and participating interest of 20 percent.
Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; editing by Edward McAllister and Jane Merriman