(Adds exploration to continue)
By Kwasi Kpodo
PEDUASE, Ghana, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) is assessing the commercial potential of a new gas discovery made in partnership with Italian energy group Eni and oil trader Vitol, GNPC chief executive Alex Mould said on Tuesday.
He was speaking during a signing ceremony for a development plan for the Offshore Cape Three Points (OCTP) development to access approximately 1.5 trillion cubic feet of gas and 500 million barrels of oil.
"We have a new discovery in the deep water South Tano basin. However, right now we're looking at doing some appraisal work to decide how commercial it is and how we're going to put the project together, its structure and the development," he said.
"ENI is the operator in this discovery and the contractor is Vitol. The block was originally given to Vitol and their local partner and ENI farmed in and they worked together for the discovery," he told reporters.
President John Mahama said the OCTP project, set to start producing oil in 2017 and gas the next year, is worth $7 billion and is the largest item of foreign direct investment in Ghana since independence in 1957. It is also the first time a trading house, Vitol, is involved in a domestic gas deal in Africa.
Ghana produces around 100,000 barrels per day from the offshore Jubilee field, which also produces 120 million cubic feet of gas. It also plans to start production of oil and gas in 2016 from the Tweneboah Enyeara and Ntomme (TEN) offshore field.
Mould said offshore oil and gas exploration will continue despite a slump in the global oil price because project costs have been well managed.
The economy has seen rapid growth due to exports of gold, cocoa and oil, which it started pumping in 2010. However, the government forecasts 2015 growth easing to 3.9 percent, from just over 4 percent last year, in part because of fiscal challenges. (Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Louise Heavens)