Canada's Ranger Oil has begun assembling an oil and gas production facility in the Espoir field off Ivory Coast, the West African country's largest shallow water oilfield, its general manager said yesterday. The field, located in the CI-26 block, is to start producing by January 2002 with a life expectancy of about 25 years.

Expected daily output of 25,000 barrels of oil and 35 million cubic feet of gas compares to Ivory Coast's current 5,000 barrels of oil and 100 million cubic feet of gas per day. "The platform deck plus some processing equipment is currently leaving the port and will be put on the top of the leg by the Castoro Otto Big Lift this (Friday) afternoon," Ranger's Simon Dugdale told Reuters.

Ranger Oil Cote d'Ivoire, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Calgary-based Canadian Natural Resources Ltd <CNQ.TO> has a 36.3 per cent stake and is the operator in Espoir. Ivory Coast's state Petroci oil company holds 20 per cent, Dutch Addax Petroleum 22.3 per cent and Ireland's Tullow Oil 21.3 per cent. Dugdale said the platform's giant U.S.-built three-legged jacket had been
successfully sunk on March 31 and secured onto the seabed, 200 metres below sea level.
Next week, Pride International's Al Baraka tender rig is to arrive at
the platform.

An oil tanker is currently being converted into a floating production storage and offloading vessel (FSPO) in Singapore and is to be connected to the platform by December, Dugdale said. Ranger last month announced the discovery of oil on its Baobab prospect, eight kilometres south of Espoir, in the deepwater block CI-40.

Dugdale said Ranger had spent about $25 million on a wildcat exploration well in the field, which is the first successful deepwater wildcat off the Ivorian Coast and had a flow-rate of 6,700 barrels per day. "The big excitement is that we proved that there is an oil source in deep water
off Ivory Coast. Before we come up with production estimates we have to do an
extensive appraisal campaign," Dugdale said.

He said the company hoped to drill two appraisal wells on Baobab this year at a cost of about $35 million. Ivory Coast's oil consumption is estimated at some 65,000 barrels per day. Current gas production is mainly used for local power generation but talks are ongoing with neighbouring Ghana which needs at least 25 million cubic feet per day for power.