ACCRA, June 9 (Reuters) - Italy's ENI will start commercial oil and gas production at its Sankofa field off the coast of Ghana in July, three months ahead of schedule, project partners said on Friday.
The Sankofa field, which will pump 45,000 barrels per day, is phase one of the $7.9 billion Offshore Cape Three Points (OCTP) project that will also produce up to 180 million standard cubic feet of gas daily from nearby Gye Nyame reserve by the end of next year.
"ENI has launched production from the integrated oil and gas development project in the OCTP block, off Ghana's western coast, in just two and half years, and three months ahead of schedule," the company said in a statement emailed to Reuters.
The government of President Nana Akufo-Addo hopes OCTP will more than double domestic gas supply and help restore rapid economic growth in a country that also produces gold and cocoa.
The gas is fuelling the production vessel and the excess will be reinjected as output rises after commissioning, said an ENI spokesman who declined to be identified. ENI holds a 44.44 percent stake in OCTP, representing the largest foreign direct investment in Ghana's history.
Upstream trader Vitol holds 35.56 percent while state oil company Ghana National Petroleum Corporation has a combined carried and participating interest of 20 percent.
The project could raise Ghana's oil output to around 200,000 barrels per day and gas production to more than 300 million standard cubic feet, a senior GNPC official told Reuters.
"We have started production but not officially ... It marks the beginning of Ghana's journey towards petroleum-driven sustained economic growth," the official said.
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 West African country began pumping oil in 2010 from its flagship offshore Jubilee field, followed by production from the Tweneboa, Enyenra, Ntomme (TEN) field in August last year. Both fields are operated by UK firm Tullow Oil. (Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and David Evans)