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South Sudan Resumes Oil Production in Former Unity State

FILE - South Sudan's Oil minister Ezekiel Lul Gatkuoth (R) and Sudan's oil minister, Azhari Abdel Qader arrive for a ceremony marking the restarting of crude oil pumping at the Unity oil fields in South Sudan, Jan. 21, 2019.

Oil is again being pumped from fields in South Sudan’s former Unity state, five years after production was halted because of fighting between government soldiers and rebels.

Awow Daniel Chuang, director general of the Petroleum Authority, which is part of the South Sudan Petroleum Ministry, said production resumed in parts of the state at the end of 2018, after workers repaired several oilfields that were damaged during clashes.

“We are also working to resume the rest of the fields, because we have five fields in that area. So now we have two fields that are already on and the rest of the field which are Amanga, Naar, and then Alhar will be coming on board very soon," Chuang told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.

He says production is still limited to around 20,000 barrels of oil per day in the state.

Oil exports were expected to make up most of South Sudan's foreign revenue when the country won independence from Sudan in 2011. But the civil war that broke out at the end of 2013 brought oil production to a near-complete halt.
Chuang said once a new power plant opens in Juba, it will enable the government to increase oil production to 60,000 barrels per day by year’s end.

“If we have enough power, then we can open more, and when we open more, we should be expecting more oil from Unity,” Chuang added.

Energy shortages along with a limited capacity at Khartoum’s oil refinery affects the amount of crude oil being extracted in former Unity state according to Chuang.

“The crude oil quality being produced in block 5A is quite limited, not because it is technically limited, but it is being limited by Khartoum refinery, because Khartoum refinery does not accommodate a quality of crude oil that is very heavy,” said Chuang.

South Sudan loses a significant amount of crude during the extraction process, but Chuang said the government plans to utilize “enhanced oil recovery technology” that should increase the oil recovery rate and production.

India's Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, Malaysia’s Petronas and China National Petroleum Corporation or CNPC all have stakes in South Sudanese oil fields.