CAPE TOWN, Oct 30 (Reuters) - British energy company Madagascar Oil will start production at a pilot project in Madagascar early next year to test extraction of as much as 3.9 billion barrels of heavy crude from sands, a senior official said on Tuesday.
The pilot plant at the company’s flagship Tsimiroro oil field on the island will use steam to heat the oil and change its viscosity before it is extracted.
It may help the company determine the cost and prospects for investing in the field, which could start exporting crude by 2020.
“The steam flood pilot will actually have its own performance curve that will ramp up, starting in the first quarter of next year, and it will probably peak some time toward the end of 2013 or early 2014 at around a thousand barrels a day,” Mark Weller, Madagascar chief operating officer, said on the sidelines of an African oil conference organised by Global Pacific & Partners.
The pilot is designed to test several key performance parameters of the reservoir and help the company refine its estimates of the cost of fully developing the field, initially pegged at $1.5 billion, Weller said.
Most of the money would be used to get the crude out and to build an export terminal on the site, a pipeline to the coast and a marine terminal and offshore mooring facility.
“It’s pretty certain that we will have our analysis complete for an investment decision at the end of 2013 ... My best projection is that it will take about five years to get everything imported, to get it all installed and to get it built and started. So 2019 right now would be the start date we would expect,” said Weller.
He said the company, which is in partnership with Total in the Bemolanga field, sees prospective volumes in excess of 3 billion barrels of oil equivalent in other Madagascan acreage, including conventional lighter oil and natural gas fields.
Madagascar off Africa’s east coast is seen as having huge oil, gold and nickel potential, but investors have been deterred from coming into the country since a coup in 2009.