In the wake of Wednesday’s announcement by the Dar Petroleum Operating Company (DPOC), the Ministry of Petroleum of Southern Sudan confirmed on Thursday that the country had made its first oil discovery since the declaration of its independence in 2011.
According to information provided by DPOC, a consortium of oil companies that includes Malaysia’s Petronas, South Sudan’s Nilepet and China’s Sinopec, Tri-Ocean Energy and CNPC (China National Petroleum Corporation), the exploration well was drilled to a total depth of 1,320 metres near the Adar oil field in northeast South Sudan and contains 5.3 million barrels of recoverable oil. Speaking at a press conference, Petroleum Minister Awow Daniel Chuang said Thursday that the new deposit will be linked to neighbouring oil fields in Paloch, already operated by DPOC, before stating that « production[of this new deposit] should begin by the end of the year ». Quoted by Reuters, NJ Ayuk, executive chairman of the African Energy Chamber, welcomed the fact that »[…] a discovery of such magnitude confirms the enormous potential of Southern Sudan’s oil and gas sector just before the country launched a new round of licences in October ».
While the size of the new deposit is modest in itself (5.3 million barrels), the value of this oil discovery – the first since the country’s independence – is not only symbolic. Due to internal instability and tensions with neighbouring Sudan, daily oil production has increased from 350,000 barrels per day in 2011 to 180,000 barrels today. A shortfall that weighs very heavily on public finances and which, according to the World Bank, would make Southern Sudan the most financially dependent country in the world on oil.