Congo Republic forecasts small jump in oil output

BRAZZAVILLE (Reuters) - Republic of Congo expects oil production to climb to 261,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2014 from around 242,000 bpd last year, an oil official said on Friday, although output is still below its historical peaks.

"Production in 2014 is estimated at ... 261,000 bpd, confirming the trend for higher output through to 2015 and 2016 as new production arrives," said Serge Bouiti Viadudo, chief of staff at the ministry of hydrocarbons.

The Central African country's oil production has been in decline for years due to maturing fields and is down from around 310,000 bpd in 2010, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

But new discoveries have piqued investor interest and Congo plans a licensing round early this year for around 10 onshore and offshore oil blocks.

The region is thought to contain oil concealed below a layer of salt and the ocean bed and some expect reserves comparable to the billions of barrels found in fields off Brazil.

Eni, the biggest foreign oil company in Africa by volume, said in September that it was on the verge of starting survey work on its 16,000 square-kilometre Ngolo block in the Cuvette Basin. British explorer Soco International and French firm Perenco are also exploring in Congo Republic.

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