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The army of South Sudan is deploying additional troops around the Paloch oilfield—the largest oilfield still operational in the country—after fresh clashes with rebels killed 56 people last week, Defense Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk told Bloomberg by phone on Monday.
Insurgents may be planning to attack production facilities at the Paloch oilfield, Juuk said, commenting on the latest in a series of clashes in the oil-rich northern parts of the country, which had left another 60 dead earlier last week.
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011. With it, South Sudan also gained control of about three-fourths of Sudan’s oil production.
But in December 2013, South Sudan plunged into civil war when President Salva Kiir Mayardit sacked the cabinet and accused Vice President Riek Machar of instigating a failed coup. The civil war ended in 2015, but clashes have been frequent since.
In May of this year, South Sudan said it would resume oil production by July after a halt of more than two years. During the civil war, the country’s production capacity fell to below 130,000 barrels a day from 350,000 bpd in its only functioning Paloch oil field of Upper Nile state.
However, renewed clashes in July threatened to derail South Sudan’s plans to lift production, and army-vs-rebel fighting intensified last month.
South Sudan, which is estimated to have had 3.5 billion barrels of proved oil reserves as of January 1, 2014, is landlocked and must depend on Sudan’s pipeline through Sudan to get the oil to the Bashayer port on the Red Sea. Sudan had managed to retain pipelines and facilities when South Sudan gained independence, allowing Sudan to levy transfer fees on South Sudan for the transport of that oil through its territory.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.