Sudan Accused of Blocking Oil Exports

KAMPALA, Uganda - South Sudan on Wednesday accused Sudan of blocking oil flow from its Unity state in the latest spat involving the two oil producers, which agreed to restart oil exports last month after a 15-month closure, officials said. 

South Sudan hasn't been able to pump around 90,000 barrels a day of crude from its TharJath oil field in the border state of Unity for nearly a week after Sudanese authorities closed a network of pipelines to oil-processing facilities in Heglig, across the common border. 

The blockade is a major setback for the two nations' ailing economies, which have been battered since South Sudan suspended its 350,000 barrels a day of oil production in January last year, amid a litany of disputes with Sudan. 

"The pipelines to Heglig were closed late last week. We have tried to inquire from Sudan, but they are not telling us anything" a South Sudanese official at the oil ministry, who declined to be named, told Dow Jones Newswires. 

South Sudanese crude from Heglig is pumped through a 1,400-mile network of pipelines to Port Sudan before being exported to refiners, mainly in Asia. Prior to the latest blockade, the presidents of Sudan and South Sudan were expected in Port Sudan before the end of May to witness the official resumption of crude shipments. 

The pipeline route is operated by a Chinese-led pipeline consortium known as Petrodar Operating Co. Oil shipments from South Sudan's vast oil fields in Upper Nile state are continuing, the official said. 

South Sudanese authorities summoned the Chinese ambassador to Juba on Monday to complain over the blockade, the official added. There was no immediate comment from Sudan and the Chinese embassy in Juba. Sudan accuses South Sudan of backing rebels in its border states of Upper Nile and South Kordofan, an accusation denied by South Sudan. 

Landlocked South Sudan inherited nearly 75% of the oil fields upon its succession from Sudan in January last year but has to rely on pipelines and ports that straddle through Sudanese territory.

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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