By Parach Mach
JUBA, South Sudan
South Sudan signed an agreement on Friday to renew all oil drilling contracts with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Malaysia's Petroliam Nasional Berhad (PETRONAS) for another five years.
The world’s newest country is estimated to have Sub Saharan Africa’s third-biggest crude reserves.
The renewal defines the legal and tax system governing oil companies, operating licenses and crude oil transportation installations among several things.
In remarks made to the media in the capital Juba on Friday, Petroleum Minister Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth said: “We have renewed the oil contracts for five years; the system is being updated to promote exploration and development, and to support oil production in the country.”
The agreement also provides for an extension of the contract till 2022 for the Paloch and Unity oil fields. The production from the two oil blocks is also expected to increase, Gatkuoth said.
“With this package now signed, we will now be moving forward with oil production, especially in places that were shut down,” he said.
This project will add more than 200,000 oil barrels per day in the first half of 2017, the minister said.
Oil contracts had been signed by the government of neighboring Sudan before South Sudan gained its independence in 2011.
CNPC President Jia Yong said: “We will do our best to increase the production and also support the resumption of oil for the Unity oil fields.
“We will work with the Ministry of Petroleum to do our best for this country in terms of economic development.”
Yong called for strengthening joint cooperation as the company resumes oil production in Unity state oil fields. He added that such cooperation would benefit both countries.
The Chinese Ambassador to South Sudan, Ma Qiang, who attended the meeting, said his country was encouraging the CNPC to increase oil production in South Sudan in the interest of the two countries.
Civil war in South Sudan cut oil output by a third to about 130,000 barrels per day. The country is currently only pumping oil in the Upper Nile state after Unity production stalled in 2014.
Before the war, China National Petroleum Corporation, Malaysia’s Petroliam National Bhd. and India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corporation produced most of the oil in the country.
The violence has so far left tens of thousands of people dead and 2.4 million displaced.