The plans come despite the Juba government pledging last month to reduce its average output for the first six months of 2017 by a token 5,000 b/d — its contribution to a deal between Opec and a group of non-Opec producers to moderate production to speed market rebalancing.
Arkangelo Okwang said the government has agreed with oil companies on plans to repair damaged facilities and resume crude output by the end of February or early March.
“We have been in talks with oil companies that were operating in these fields before and we have agreed that the situation is now normal for them to reopen the fields for production,” Okwang said. Output had been shut in because of fighting between armed factions vying to control the country.
In November, South Sudan president Salva Kiir made a bid to re-open the Unity State oil fields, appointing a National Planning Committee and tasking its members to negotiate with oil companies a plan to resume oil production.
The oil companies will be given a five-year extension on their production sharing agreements, he said.
The companies will pay the costs of rehabilitating the oil fields and returning evacuated workers. The fields will be manned by both government and international troops from the African Union and the EU, he said.
South Sudan’s oil industry is dominated by Chinese, Malaysian and Indian companies, most of which operated there before South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011.
Okwang added that the country currently produces 165,000 b/d but aims to raise production to at least 360,000 b/d in two years time.With the addition of 50,000 b/d from Unity State, South Sudan will be producing around 215,000 b/d by mid-2017.
South Sudan produced around 350,000 b/d in 2013 before a conflict erupted between Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar. The crude is exported through Sudanese infrastructure to Asia-Pacific markets.