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South Sudan’s upstream energy is dominated by Asian national oil companies, which lead the three main consortia. Each operating group is almost entirely controlled by Malaysia’s Petronas, India’s ONGC Videsh and the China National Petroleum Corporation, with other companies such as Sinopec, TriOcean and KUFPEC holding minor shares and the national oil company Nilepet represented as a stakeholder in all the operating consortia.
Though not yet an operator, South Sudan’s national oil company Nilepet has a vital role to play in the development of the country’s oil sector and the industry’s continued growth.
Incorporated in 2009 after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 and two years before independence was granted to South Sudan in 2011, Nilepet holds a stake in each consortium operating in South Sudan. Nilepet took over from the state-owned oil company of Sudan, Sudapet, upon independence.
The company is active in both South Sudan’s upstream and downstream industries, with responsibility for regulating fuel imports, distribution and storage and also running its own retail stations. Importantly, Nilepet represents the state’s interest in upstream activities. The company has announced it is interested in becoming an operator. In the services sector, Nilepet has entered a variety of important joint ventures with international firms with the aim of building capacity in South Sudan and optimizing operations. These JVs include local drilling contractor Nile Drilling, brownfield and technology developer Nile Delta, and engineering consultancy SIPET.
A consortium of China National Petroleum Corporation (41%), Petronas (40%), Nilepet (8%), Sinopec (6 %) and Tri-Ocean Energy (5%), Dar Petroleum Operating Company (DPOC) is an exploration and production company based in Juba and operating Blocks 3 and 7 in the Melut Basin. Dar Petroleum is the only oil and gas consortium currently producing oil significant volumes in South Sudan, though the company produces Dar blend crude, a lower quality as compared to Nile blend.
Its fields have a capacity of 175,000 barrels per day, with a potential of up to 240,000 barrels per day, according to Nilepet. The company announced a new discovery in 2019 in the Adar oil field that contains 300 million barrels of recoverable oil.
GPOC is the descendent of the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company, which operates in the oil-rich border area. The consortium was created to handle investment in Block 1A and Block 1B, which contains the oil-rich Unity Field. This area, to the far north of South Sudan, has been at the epicentre of violence since 2013, but production has restarted in the last year. The GPOC consortium consists of CNPC (40%), Petronas (30%), ONGC Videsh (25%) and Nilepet (5%). The area has a production capacity of 38,000 barrels per day of high-quality Nile Blend. Before independence, Block 1 was operated by the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company, which also operated Blocks 2 and 4. These were allocated to Sudan under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005.
Sudd Petroleum Operating Company (SPOC) operates Block 5A in Thar Jath, which has a production capacity of 80,000 barrels of oil per day of high-quality Nile blend. Facilities are not currently operating but production is expected to restart following the new peace agreement.
SPOC has also reinitiated corporate social responsibility activities in the production area, providing water and medical supplies to a community of 50,000 people.
Production in Block 5A began in 2006 at 40,000 barrels per day and peaked at 54,000 barrels per day in 2009. By 2014, however, production was reduced significantly to 4,500 barrels per day. SPOC is owned by Petronas (67.8%), ONGC Videsh (24.2%) and Nilepet (8%).