South Sudan Integrates Environmental Protection with Hydrocarbon Exploration

Despite holding the third-largest oil reserves in sub-Saharan Africa – estimated at 3.5 billion barrels – only 30% of South Sudan has been explored to date, leaving the country as one of the final frontier markets. With hydrocarbon-focused legislation, a landmark peace deal signed in 2018 and a reformed investment climate, South Sudan is actively enabling the resumption of exploration and production activities across the country. In a bid to reduce pollution and align itself with a growing environmental agenda, the country has launched a tender for a comprehensive environmental audit of all its oil-producing fields. As South Sudan aims to balance socioeconomic development needs with environmental concerns, the audit proves particularly valuable for facilitating economic regrowth through the hydrocarbon industry.

Oil comprises the dominant source of revenue for South Sudan, with current output of an estimated 186,000 barrels per day (bpd). With government objectives to increase this figure to between 350,000 and 400,000 bpd by the end of 2025, new frontier exploration has taken priority. However, before any new exploration or drilling activities take place, the Government has required that an environmental audit be conducted to address potential environmental damage, such as loss of grazing land, deforestation, soil and water contamination and local community impact caused by ineffective environmental management. In short, South Sudan is targeting cleaner and safer operations, as existing fields resume production across the country.

Aligned with the audit, South Sudan will develop an effective environmental management plan as well as evaluate the environmental input and potential risks associated with oil production and exploration. This evaluation will enable the Government to impose the requirements necessary to ensure the safeguarding of communities and ecosystems. As the domestic oil industry offers the potential to catapult South Sudan to economic growth and stability – significantly alleviating poverty in the process – the progression of production and exploration activities in a safe and environmentally conscious manner is vital. Rather than reduce or eliminate fossil fuel investment altogether, the country is integrating reserve exploitation with environmental protections for a more prosperous future.

Accordingly, the Government has invited a shortlist of companies to bid for the environmental audit. The tender will be conducted in accordance with the National Competitive Bidding Procedures contained in the Government’s Interim Public Procurement and Disposal Regulations 2018. The launch of the audit will provide several key benefits for the country’s energy industry, including a reduction in oil pollution, the monitoring of existing management practices, the assessment of harm caused to the environment and the strengthening of enforcement and regulatory oversight, which will allow the country to increase environmental protections while capitalizing on its abundant natural reserves. The audit will also allow for the re-design and implementation of necessary alternative measures.

“On behalf of the Government, I am pleased to announce to you the full environmental audit in all oil fields in the country,” stated Minister of Petroleum Puot Kang Chol. “The audit will cover the current oil-producing fields in Blocks 3 & 7, Blocks 1, 2 & 4 and Block 5A.”

South Sudan’s environmental audit speaks to the commitment by the Government to establishing a transparent and sustainableindustry, as well as driving investor interest in the nation’s progressive developments. With international investors becoming increasingly hesitant to invest in fossil fuel projects due to the global energy transition, South Sudan is utilizing environmental stability and safety as a driving force for investment.

By imposing health and safety standards regarding hydrocarbon activities – and taking a stronger stance against oil pollution and environmental damage – the country is ensuring that current and future exploration activities are conducted in an environmentally friendly manner. The combination of industry-supportive regulation and environmental protection policies, therefore, is a key ingredient to South Sudan’s industry success.

Under the theme, “Build the Nation: Capital Raising and Innovative Financing to Build Critical Energy and Infrastructural Projects,” South Sudan Oil & Power (SSOP) 2021 Conference & Exhibition (June 29-30) will unite industry leaders and stakeholders to drive growth across diverse sectors of South Sudan’s economy. The fourth annual SSOP 2021 is organized by Africa Oil & Power, under the auspices of the Ministry of Petroleum and Ministry of Energy and Dams.

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