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S. Sudan’s Petroleum minister woes foreign investors

May 10, 2018 (LONDON) - South Sudan’s oil facilities are secure and investors should not be deterred, the country’s Petroleum minister, Ezekiel Lol Gatkouth told delegates attending the Africa Oil and Power Investment Forum in London Thursday.

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South Sudan’s petroleum minister Ezekiel Gatkouth makes opening remarks at the Oil and Power conference in Juba, October 16, 2017 (APO)

“Leave it [politics] to the politicians,” said the minister, while addressing the forum, adding, "When you come to South Sudan, you need to be a pure company that doesn’t have a hidden agenda."

Gatkuoth said the government has kept the country’s oil installations secure, despite the civil war that has displaced millions of people.

The minister specifically cited the Chinese state-owned petroleum company (CNPC) as a major investor in South Sudan’s oil industry.

"CNPC is purely doing business. They don’t ask about the political situation or [questions like] when we are going to have an agreement with the rebels,” he stressed.

Investing in local content, Gatkuoth said, is important if South Sudan is to boost oil production levels, which reached 350,000bpd in 2011, before it slumped to just the current 130,000bpd due to the civil war.

"Seventy per cent of South Sudan is unexplored, there are three operating companies who have the potential to produce - the whole country is floating on oil," the minister disclosed, adding "We are big on land but small on population with only 12 million people."

South Sudan got the lion’s share of the oil when it split from Sudan in July 2011, but it’s only export route is through Sudan, giving Khartoum leverage and leading to ongoing pricing disputes.

However, since its independence, South Sudan has relied on oil for all its incomes, a situation that has significantly compounded the ongoing political and economic instability due to fall in crude oil prices.

HUGE PROSPECTS

In July last year, Nigeria’s Oranto Petroleum Limited said it signed oil sharing agreement with South Sudan covering the country’s Block B3, earmarking up to $500 million to explore the oil in the region. In the first three years, Oranto said it would do airborne geophysical surveys in the 25,150-sq km block and assess existing data held by the government and former operators, among a series of other activities.

The 120,000-square kilometer Block B was reportedly split by the government into the B1, B2 and B3 blocks in 2012. In Block B3, Oranto will work alongside the B1 and B2 partners, which include Total.

South Sudan is an established, world-class petroleum producing region, whose territory includes a large part of the Cretaceous rift basin system that has proved petroliferous in Chad, Niger and Sudan.

(ST)