South Sudan made a small oil discovery in Northern Upper Nile State, the first since independence in 2011 when exploration was interrupted by war and instability, the oil minister said.
The new field in the Adar area contains 5.3 million barrels of recoverable oil and will be linked to nearby Paloch oilfields, operated by Dar Petroleum Operating Company, Ninister Awow Daniel Chuang said.
“Production is likely to begin towards the end of the year,” Chuang told a news conference.
“As of now, we are excited in a few weeks, exploration will be a priority. We are going to move all over South Sudan.”
The country earns almost all its revenue from oil and has boosted output, now at 180,000 barrels per day, as it struggles to rebuild a shattered economy after a five-year civil war.
In 2012 a dispute with Sudan over pipeline fees saw South Sudan shut its oil industry for over a year. The shutdown crippled the economy, leaving soldiers and civil servants unpaid. Months later the country plunged into civil war.
Much of the landlocked East African nation’s oil infrastructure was damaged in the conflict, during which about 400 000 people were killed and more than a third of the 12 million population uprooted.
Government is keen to reach pre-war oil production levels of 350 000 to 400 000 bpd by mid-2020.
A fragile ceasefire in September ended most fighting, but plans to form a unity government in May were delayed with no funding to disarm, retrain and integrate militias and rebels.
The oil ministry will conduct an environmental audit of South Sudan oilfields led by a technical environmental consultant, Chuang said.