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Santos has commenced oil production from the Fletcher Finucane project in the Carnarvon Basin offshore of Western Australia, ahead of schedule.

Sanctioned in January 2012, the $490m Fletcher Finucane development involves a three-well subsea tie-back to the existing Santos-operated Mutineer Exeter floating production, storage and offloading facility.

The field’s gross proved and probable reserves are expected to be around 14 million barrels, and during the first 12 months of production, the field is estimated to have an average gross production rate of 15,000 barrels per day, according to the company.

The discovery is located north of the dampier sub basin and 17km to the east of the existing Santos-operated Mutineer Exeter field facilities.

Both Fletcher-1 and Fletcher-2 wells were drilled in 2007, while Fletcher-3 and Fletcher-4 were drilled in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

The first two wells were drilled to appraise the eastern portion of the Fletcher oil discovery, while the subsequent two wells were designed to examine the former wells.

"The field’s gross proved and probable reserves are expected to be around 14 million barrels."

Santos chief executive David Knox said the project could deliver the first oil ahead of schedule and within 16 months of sanction, due to strong project management and focused execution.

"Fletcher Finucane start-up adds significantly to our oil production and is the fifth development project Santos has delivered on budget and schedule in the past two years," Knox added.

Santos vice president Western Australia and Northern Territory John Anderson said that Fletcher Finucane had come on-line soon after the Finucane South discovery in May 2011.

"Importantly, this tie-back extends the economic life of Mutineer Exeter," Anderson added.

"We have also secured a rig and joint venture approval to drill the Vanuatu prospect, which is the first of a number of identified near-field exploration tie-back opportunities. If successful, Vanuatu could be tied back to our new subsea equipment at Fletcher."

Santos, as the operator, holds 44% aggregate interest in the Fletcher Finucane project, while co-partners are Kufpec and JX Nippon Oil & Gas with 33.4% and 22.6% interest, respectively.

Image: Development wells were drilled using the Nan Hai 6 Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit.