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CORRECTED-Ghana court to rule on Eni's oilfield combination dispute

(Corrects June 24 story to clarify amount of oil and gas, in paragraph 8)

ACCRA, June 24 (Reuters) - A Commercial court in Ghana will rule on Friday whether to withhold revenues from an Eni-operated oilfield in an escrow account, as requested by the local operator of an adjacent field in a dispute over the combination of the projects.

With billions of dollars at stake, the ruling could escalate the dispute if Eni decides to take the matter to international arbitration. Eni has warned that a rushed decision could impact Ghana’s appeal to foreign investors.

Kevin Okyere, founder and chief executive of Springfield, told Reuters that the company has asked the court to preserve revenues from the field that produces over 50,000 barrels of oil per day until a deal is done and “each gets their share”.

“They are in production and are taking profits in which we are entitled to half of, that is why we took legal action to protect our interest,” Okyere said, adding that a combination could see it hold around 54% stake.

The adjacent fields, Eni’s Sankofa and Springfield’s Afina, are located offshore Ghana.

A spokesperson for Eni said the company, and partner Vitol, have argued that there were no basis for Springfield’s Afina discovery to be considered commercially producible, and an order to combine them was premature.

Sankofa, which has been producing oil since 2017, is part of Eni’s Offshore Cape Three Points project off the Atlantic Coast. Eni says the project has reserves of about 500 million barrels of oil and 40 billion cubic meters of unassociated gas.

Springfield says Afina, discovered in 2019, holds 640 million barrels of oil and no gas, while the whole block has 1.5 billion barrels in total, which includes other discoveries.

Oilfields that straddle each other are required to combine in order to reduce production costs. It is for that reason that Tullow and Kosmos partnered up to develop Ghana’s flagship Jubilee field, which began production in 2010.

Okyere said Springfield took the matter to court because Eni had engaged in delaying discussions, despite a directive from the energy ministry last year for the fields to be combined. He said Eni had not showed up for their meetings.

Eni’s spokesperson said it had been in discussions until Springfield took the matter to court to force it to comply with the energy ministry directives.

“This caused a stall in discussions among parties. At the moment, Springfield is still vigorously pursuing this court case, which creates an impediment to any fruitful discussions with the companies on the subject,” Eni said in a statement. (Reporting by Bate Felix, Christian Akorlie and Stephen Jewkes; editing by David Evans)

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