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Niger aims to start exporting its first crude oil in January, the military leader of the African country, Abdourahamane Tiani, has said on state television.

The commercial stage of the exports is expected to start in January from the Benin port of Cotonou, Tiani said, as quoted by Reuters.

General Abdourahamane Tiani, the commander of Niger's presidential guard, was appointed head of state at the end of July by a governing council set up by military forces that ousted Niger's President Mohammed Bazoum. A group of military commanders overthrew the Niger government and the country's army declared its support for the coup.  

The Western African country is a former French colony and a major supplier of uranium for France's and other European nuclear power plants. Following the coup, there has been some concern about uranium deliveries to the EU but, according to Euratom, there was no immediate risk for supply even if Niger halted exports of the commodity, Reuters reported at the time.

Niger now looks to export its first barrels of crude oil via a new pipeline project. The pipeline was launched at the start of November and connects the Agadem oilfield in Niger to the port of Cotonou in Benin.

Currently, storage tanks in Cotonou are being filled and the filling up is expected to be completed by January, according to Niger's military leader. After that the commercialization stage should begin, Tiani added.

Niger wants to focus on refining crude domestically for the local market, the leader said.

"Our desire is not to market crude oil. We want to move towards a refinery which will process Nigerien crude on Nigerien soil," Tiani was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Currently, Niger has one small refinery with a capacity of 20,000 barrels per day (bpd), whose production predominantly supplies the domestic market.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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Charles Kennedy

Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com More