By Ed Stoddard and Wendell Roelf
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Construction of a proposed $690 million oil storage terminal in Equatorial Guinea is likely to start in the second half of next year and become operational by end-2013, the west African country's oil minister said on Wednesday.
"We will expect by the second quarter of next year to have FID (final investment decision) and start construction in summer, with the plant operational by the end of 2013," Gabriel Obiang Lima told Reuters on the sidelines of an African oil and gas conference.
He said Vopak, the world's largest independent storage tank operator, would build and operate the terminal, which will be similar to existing facilities in Rotterdam and Singapore.
He said the plant was likely to be the largest in Africa with a storage capacity of 2.5 million cubic metres and would be used for crude blending.
Traders such as commodity giant Glencore could use the plant to consolidate their African crude assets and export mainly to Asia, he said.
He also said the country expected to maintain its oil production at 240,000 barrels per day over the next three years and that this output target would be augmented by the fact that its Aseng field -- operated by Noble Energy -- would start pumping crude in two weeks, about a month ahead of schedule.
Obiang Lima also said the country, which depends mainly on offshore resources, also had hopes for its onshore oil development.
"We are also inviting companies to participate onshore. We have only one company yet, Total, which has drilled two wells onshore," he said.
He said the neighborhood prospects looked promising, despite what geologists have said and that they have been proven wrong in the country before.
"If you look at the basins onshore in Cameroon and Gabon, that is where they have the majority of the oil," the minister said.
"We are the only one who is really not drilling onshore. The geologists say there is no prospect there, but from our experience with the geologists they are the same ones who say there is no more oil or gas in Equatorial Guinea," he said.