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Opec's newest member may boost output as much as 65% this year

[DOUALA, Cameroon]  The Republic of Congo expects to raise oil production by as much 65 per cent this year as two new projects come on stream, Hydrocarbons Minister Jean-Marc Thystere-Tchicaya said.

Congo joined the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) last week and plans to open up its oil industry, which the government says is dominated by Total and Eni, to new investors. Sub-Saharan Africa's third-biggest oil producer pumped 291,000 barrels per day last year, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

Output will increase as commercial production starts this year at Moho North and Banga Kayo, Mr Thystere-Tchicaya said by phone Sunday from the capital, Brazzaville. Moho North, a deep offshore program operated by Total, is expected to produce 140,000 barrels per day, while the Banga Kayo onshore field developed by closely held Chinese company Wing Wah Petrochemical will pump 50,000 barrels, he said.

"This accession to Opec membership comes at a time when Congo expects to see an increase in its oil production," he said.

Boosting oil output will help Congo deal with an economic crisis spawned by a drop in oil prices that began in 2014. The economy shrank 4.6 per cent last year, the second successive annual contraction and the largest since 1994, according to International Monetary Fund data. It may grow an anemic 0.7 per cent in 2018.

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