By Alsir Sidahmed*
June 17, 2007 — Sudan oil industry emerges as a small, but steadily growing along the increased importance of Africa as oil supplier. That is what could be easily concluded of BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy, released last Wednesday. Along the fashion of following alternative energy trends British Petroleum (BP) has changed its name to Beyond Petroleum (BP).
For the third consecutive year, Sudan retains its proven oil reserves at 6.4 billion barrels. Though small, but clearly implies that replenishment is taking place despite eight years of growing production volume.
BP first included Sudan in its annual statistical book, that has been publishing for 56 years, in 1981 putting its reserves at 200 million barrels, that increased to 300 million the following year. And it continued with that level till it joined the club of oil exporters in 1999 with 300 million barrels reserves. The jump came in the following year, when proven reserves topped 6 billion, rising to 6.4 billion barrels in 2004 and continued so till last year.
This increase in reserves matches the growing oil reserves of Africa that stood at 84.7 billion barrels in 1999, moving to 93.4 billion the following year, to 112.3 billion in 2003 and 117.2 billion last year.
With this volume of reserves, Sudan occupies the fifth position in the continent after Libya, Nigeria, Algeria and Angola.
Equally Sudan’s production has grown over the years. From 63.000 barrels per day (bpd) in 1999, to 174.000 bpd the following year, to 211.000, 233.000, 255.000, 325.000, 355.000 in consecutive years and 397.000 bpd last year according to BP’s review. With blocks (3) and (7) now fully operational, it has exceeded 500.000 bpd already this year.
The significance of its reserves and production figures is that being a non-OPEC member, it stands a good chance to escalate its production volume following extensive exploration activity, since it will not be restricted as far as production volume is concerned like OPEC members.
Also even with this small production figure, it moves to position itself in the continent. For instance, that adds to its clout regionally within the ten African countries that form the Nile Basin Initiative. Only Sudan and Egypt are oil producers within the group, but while Sudan’s oil production is growing that of Egypt is declining after peaking in 1993 at 941.000 bpd, then started declining till it reached 678.000 bpd last year, while domestic consumption keeps escalating to 612.000 bpd last year, which leaves very little for Egypt to export, though it has the chance to compensate given its growing gas reserves. On its part, Sudan consumes little over 100.000 bpd, which leaves the bulk of its production for export.
The growth in Sudan’s oil production goes hand in hand with the growth in Africa’s total oil production that stood at 7.6 million bpd in 1999, rising to 8.4 million bpd in 2003, then to 9.9 million bpd last year.
This trend consolidates the look at Africa as an alternative source of oil supplies to some western countries led by the United States, who see that though the Middle East has the biggest oil reserves and ability to pump more supplies, but given its instability and a history of oil embargo because of the Arab-Israeli war in 1973, consumers should look at alternatives.
Africa is emerging as one as it lacks that political dimension of a regional conflict, though internal problems like the ones faced by Nigeria are posing the same problem, but more important and for the Americans in particular is that once oil reaches ports to be loaded from West Africa, it has only the Atlantic Ocean to cross and reach the US market without having to worry about Strait of Hormuz, the chokepoint for Gulf supplies.
And that is why US hopes to get one barrel of oil from Africa from every four barrels its imports within the coming ten years. That gives it an additional reason to set up a military command for Africa separate from the Central Command used to cover the continent, and part of its duties is to safeguard oil sea lanes.
Alsir Sidahmed, a free lance journalist, media consultant and trainer could be reached at email@example.com