Total approves $10 billion Congo project, sees 2015 startup

Total and its partners have committed $10 billion to a development off the coast of Congo, expected to produce 140,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day by the time full output is reached in 2017, the French oil company said on Friday.

The Moho Nord joint development is one of a string of African projects that Total is banking on to help it boost its oil production by 25 percent over the next five years, with growth accelerating after 2015 to top 3 million barrels of oil and gas a day for the first time.

Oil from the first project is due to start flowing in 2015, while Moho Nord will start up a year later, partner Chevron Corp said in a statement.

Moho Nord is the largest oil and gas project in the Republic of the Congo. It includes the Moho Bilondo "Phase 1 bis" tie-back to an existing floating facility, while Moho Nord involves new offshore production capacity and a 50-mile (80-km) pipeline to the shore.

The project is one of three west African deepwater projects that will help Total deliver on its ambitious plans.

"The launch enhances visibility on Total's production growth objective," said Yves-Louis Darricarrere, Total's head of exploration.

Total operates the Moho-Bilondo license, of which it holds a 53.5 percent stake. Chevron holds a 31.5 percent working interest, while Congo's national oil company holds the rest.

"Moho Nord is further indication of our commitment to West Africa where Chevron has made sizable investments," said Ali Moshiri, president of the U.S. oil company's Africa and Latin America exploration and production arm.

In a joint Angola-Congo development area, Chevron has a 31.3 percent interest in Lianzi, where it is drilling and expects first oil in 2015, with daily output of up to 46,000 barrels.

Off Angola, Chevron expects final approval next year on Lucapa, which has a design capacity of 80,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Chevron's focus on developing crude oil projects helped lift its stock to a fresh record high of $121.40 on Friday on the New York Stock Exchange. Total shares ended 0.4 percent lower in Paris.

(Reporting by Michel Rose in Paris and Braden Reddall in San Francisco; Editing by Gus Trompiz and Bernadette Baum)