CAIRN Energy has passed an important milestone in the company’s campaign to develop a bumper find it made off Senegal in West Africa.

The Edinburgh-based oil and gas firm noted the development plan for the Sangomar field has been submitted to the authorities in Senegal for approval, with a related exploitation authorisation request.

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The documents are the last submissions required by the government in Senegal before it can grant approval for the development of Sangomar, the country’s first oil field.

The field was known as SNE when it was found by Cairn in 2014 with Australian heavyeight Woodside and a smaller player from the country called Far.

Cairn has said the find was the biggest oil discovery made anywhere in the world that year.

The development plan underlines the scale of Sangomar.

The first phase will target 230 million barrels oil. It will involve linking 23 subsea wells to a huge new Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel. This will have the capacity to handle 100,000 barrels oil daily.

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The FPSO has been designed to cope with subsequent development phases of Sangomar and output from other discoveries made in the area.

Woodside is running the project as operator of the field and expects the first phase to cost around $4.2 billion. Its chief executive Peter Coleman said the submission of the development plan was a major milestone for the joint venture.

The partners hope the plan will be approved in time for them to make a Final Investment Decision on the development this month. They hope to produce first oil in 2023.

The partners could generate huge amounts of cash from the output from Sangomar.

Cairn moved into Senegal under chief executive Simon Thomson’s plan to combine exploration in so-called frontier areas with lower risk activity in the North Sea. It has a 40 per cent stake in Sangomar.

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The company has stakes in two big producing fields off Scotland.

It made no comment on Sangomar yesterday.

Mamadou Faye of Senegal's national oil company Petrosen said the Sangomar exploitation plan outlined how the field would be developed to the benefit of the people of the country and the partners in the development.

Cairn has a 40 per cent stake in Sangomar.