* Total targets 3 million barrels per day by 2019
* Will sanction 13 projects with high returns by end 2018
* Targets savings of $4 bln in 2018, $5 bln by 2020 (Adds details, quotes, background)
By Bate Felix
PARIS, Sept 25 (Reuters) - French oil and gas company Total extended its 5 percent annual average oil production growth target until 2022 on Monday and said it planned to focus on projects with a low breakeven cost as oil prices remain volatile.
The company said it was taking advantage of the current low-cost environment in the sector to approve projects with high returns and add resources that will allow it to boost production to meet a target of 3 million barrels per day by 2019.
Total has emerged from the prolonged oil downturn with a stronger balance sheet than its rivals and has said it is ready to launch new projects and acquire attractive assets from struggling competitors.
“Thirty months ago, we were in a survival mood. Today, we want to grow,” Chief Executive Officer Patrick Pouyanne told investors in London.
Total confirmed its target of achieving production growth of 5 percent a year on average over 2014 to 2020 in its presentation and said it was extending that target to 2022.
The company said it planned to approve 13 projects by the end of 2018, which together would add about 700,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day to its output by 2020.
Jefferies, which has a “hold” rating on Total shares, said the presentation appeared to be a “small positive” at first glance, with relatively minor tweaks to a strategy that was working well.
Total adjusted its capital expenditure plans for 2017 to $14 billion from $14 billion to $15 billion, but kept its 2018 to 2020 spending plans at $13 billion to $15 billion a year, excluding expenditure on acquiring resources.
It said it planned to achieve savings of $3.6 billion by the end of 2017, and was extending targeted savings on operations from $4 billion in 2018 to $5 billion by 2020.
Arnaud Breuillac, the company’s president for exploration and production, told analysts that Total was placing continued emphasis on cost reduction so as to meet its target.
“We are focusing on projects where production costs can be the lowest,” he said. Total is targeting group production costs at below $5.5 per barrel of oil equivalent (boe) in 2017, from $5.9/boe in 2016 and $7.4/boe in 2015.
Pouyanne reiterated that the company plans to remove the discount on its scrip dividend after the closing of the $7.45 billion acquisition of Maersk Oil, and will cover its full cash dividend from 2019 with oil at $50 per barrel.
Total’s new Gas, Renewables & Power branch aims to have $500 million free cash flow by 2022 as it adds new customers. Its plan is to add 5 gigawatts of electricity capacity in five years and increase its French gas and power client base to 3 million. (Reporting by Bate Felix; editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and David Clarke)