File photo shows a storage tank of French Total oil refinery of Grandpuits, east of Paris. (AP Photo/ Francois Mori, file)

INTERNATIONAL –  French oil and energy group Total will formally approve a decision to proceed with the Ikike project in Nigeria in the coming months, said chief executive Patrick Pouyanne.

“There is a huge potential in Nigeria, it is probably the most prolific country in west Africa in terms of oil and gas and it is time to launch new projects and we are working on many of them,” Pouyanne told journalists on Monday.

Pouyanne was speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of Nigerian and French businesses in Paris.

Total is one of the strongest players in the African oil sector, holding the largest proven reserves on the continent among the world’s top oil companies.

Earlier this month, Total started production at the Egina oilfield off the coast of Nigeria.

Total SA said on it had started production from the Egina oilfield off Nigeria’s coast, part of a shift by the French energy firm towards deepwater oil and gas projects to its drive cash flow.

An output from Egina, which is located in waters about 1,600 metres (5,250 ft) deep, is expected to plateau at 200,000 barrels per day of oil, Total said. That rate is equivalent to about 10 percent of Nigeria’s current production.