MELBOURNE, March 9 (Reuters) - Australia's FAR Ltd, a partner in an oilfield off Senegal, on Thursday said the project could start producing before 2021, earlier than previously touted, and at a higher rate than flagged before.
Operator Cairn Energy Plc and FAR released updates this week following drilling on their latest well, SNE-5, which will help the companies and their new partner, Woodside Petroleum, delineate reservoirs and finalise how to develop the SNE field.
One of two reservoirs tested yielded a better-than-expected flow of oil, while the other was in line with expectations, said FAR Chief Executive Cath Norman.
"What it means is we can apply a much higher recovery factor to that unit, and that will have an impact on the resources of the field," she told Reuters in an interview.
The companies expect to come up with a joint estimate of the field's reserves around June or July, Norman said. FAR currently estimates SNE holds 640 million barrels of proved and probable reserves.
Cairn, FAR and Woodside had all said they expected to start producing some time between 2021 and 2023, using a floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel.
Norman said the timing of first oil "probably" could be brought forward, but that would depend on the targeted production rate for the field, currently estimated at 100,000 to 120,000 barrels per day by Cairn and 140,000 bpd by FAR.
"There are FPSOs, for example, in abundance coming out of Brazil at the moment," she said.
"If we need to cater for, say, 200,000 barrels of production a day, then we're going to need to customise them in some way, so it really depends on what the final development concept looks like."
FAR's share price has fallen about 30 percent over the past year, with Norman saying the market had failed to recognise the potential of the field.
Cairn Chief Executive Simon Thomson told analysts on Wednesday that the firm was working towards handing over operation of the field to Woodside, which bought out ConocoPhillips' stake in the project late last year.
Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Joseph Radford