French giant Total finds new oil off Nigeria

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French energy giant Total announced Monday that it has found oil in an exploration zone off Nigeria's restive Niger Delta, opening the possibility of a new production hub.

The firm said it had hit oil in a test well 65 kilometres (40 miles) out into the Gulf of Guinea, off the huge West African country's Atlantic Coast.

It is the second strike in the OML 102 oil exploration block, which Total operates in a joint venture, holding a 40 percent share and Nigeria's state oil firm the NNPC 60 percent, after finding the Etisong Main field in 2008.

The firm did not offer an estimate of how much oil could be found but said the test well was drawing 8,500 barrels per day.

Nigeria in normal times is Africa's biggest oil producer -- pumping around 2.2 million barrels per day in 2009 according to a US official estimate -- but its exports are often disrupted by pirate attacks.

A recent report estimated the country loses about 150,000 to 200,000 barrels of crude oil per day to criminal attacks. On October 30, a Malta-flagged tanker was hijacked off the Nigerian coast.

© 2011 AFP

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