ALGIERS, Algeria, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- Algeria began production at a field in the southeast of the country thought to hold 1.2 billion barrels of oil, Energy and Mining Minister Youcef Yousfi said.
Yousfi said production at el-Merk field in Illizi province commenced Sunday, the official Algerian Press Service reported.
State-owned energy company Sonatrach holds a 51 percent stake in the field.
The company said it has plans to produce 146,000 barrels of oil per day from the field by working alongside its U.S. partner, Anadarko Petroleum Corp.
The press service reported the oil-rich province lies at the center of Sonatrach's development strategy for Algeria.
El-Merk exploration should cost $4 billion and include 80 exploration wells, the report said.
Algeria is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. OPEC said the country has proven crude oil reserves of 12.2 billion barrels.