Spanish oil major Repsol has begun commercial production at the pre-salt Sapinhoa "megafield" after connecting a producing well to an FPSO with the capacity to extract 120,000 barrels of oil per day.

The company said in a statement Tuesday that the field, located in the BM-S-9 block, contains very high-quality crude that will contribute decisively to Repsol's growth plans in the coming years.

The first producing well, which is known as Guara-1 and has a production potential greater than 25,000 barrels per day, has already been connected to the Cidade de Sao Paulo floating production, storage and offloading vessel.

Repsol said commercial production is beginning ahead of schedule and that over the next few months new wells will be connected to the FPSO with a view to achieving 120,000 barrels per day of crude output in the first half of 2014.

A second FPSO with a production capacity of 150,000 bpd of crude and 6 million cubic meters (211.5 million cubic feet) per day of natural gas will be installed in a second development phase at Sapinhoa. That second vessel is scheduled to begin operating in the second half of 2014.

BM-S-9 is operated by Petrobras, which has a 45 percent stake in the block. The Spanish-Chinese joint venture Repsol Sinopec Brasil and BG Group have 25 percent and 30 percent interests, respectively.

Sapinhoa is one of Brazil's largest oil fields with total recoverable volume estimated at 2.1 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

The start of production at the field marks an "important milestone in Repsol's development strategy," the company said.

The Spanish oil major's goal is to achieve production of 500,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2016 with an annual reserve replacement ratio of at least 120 percent.

Sapinhoa is located in the pre-salt region, a massive oil frontier so-named because the crude reservoirs it contains are located under an extensive layer of salt up to 2,000 meters (6,550 feet) thick.

Distributed across roughly 160,000 sq. kilometers (62,000 sq. miles), the pre-salt region is projected to hold tens of billions of barrels of light oil and could potentially transform the South American country into a major exporter of crude and derivatives. EFE