Khartoum unable to ensure smooth export of South Sudan oil

Thursday March 21 2024

A man walks while smoke rises above buildings after aerial bombardment, during clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army in Khartoum North, Sudan on May 1, 2023. PHOTO | REUTERS


Sudan is admitting that it cannot guarantee the smooth export of oil from South Sudan, as a year of war has made it difficult to maintain or even protect the pipeline to Port Sudan.

Sudan's Minister of Energy and Petroleum Dr Mohieldin Nam Mohamed Said wrote a letter on March 16 to major companies involved in oil production in South Sudan, admitting that the war had made it difficult to provide such guarantees.

He acknowledged that the conflict was hampering the flow of oil to Port Sudan, as it took time to repair pipelines ruptured during the fighting. In addition, there have been problems with telecommunications between the pumping stations (PS4) and PS5 in Sudan, which were shut down in the midst of heavy fighting.

Read: Sudan war deals a blow to shrinking economy

The Sudanese Armed Forces (Saf) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have been fighting since April 15 last year following a disagreement over the country's transitional future. Various peace efforts led by the regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), on the one hand, and the US and Saudi Arabia on the other, have largely failed to secure even a ceasefire.

And the warring factions later resorted to economic sabotage, bombing telecommunications infrastructure, roads and buildings in a major disruptive move. Both sides blamed the other, although the US concluded that both sides had committed war crimes. 


The letter was addressed to China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) Director Dr Wangi Guolin, China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation or Sinopec International Exploration and Production Corporation Director Martin Jiambo, Petronas Director Mai Gadalla and SSTO Egypt Managing Director Hassan Maselhy.

Dr Said revealed that there was a restriction on the flow of crude oil to the Jabalayn-Port Sudan Pipeline (Bapco) in PS5 and a gelling incident that occurred in the area between pump stations 4 and 5 because the said area is a military operation zone that was inaccessible to the operator (Bapco).

In addition, there was no communication with PS4 due to the unavailability of telecommunications in Sudan, which were shut down by RSF as an act of war.

Read: Juba refutes claims of fuel delivery to Sudan's RSF

As such, the Government of South Sudan declares a state of force majeure which prevents us from fulfilling our obligations in the delivery of crude oil and through the Bapco transportation system to the Bashayer 2 Maritime Terminal We remain suspended to restore the BPCO transportation system to operational mode and will be duly updated of any developments," the letter said.

There was also a major rupture 18km north of PS3, which is also a military operation area. "Teams were mobilised to the area to repair the rupture and were only able to commence repairs after security clearance was obtained," the minister said in the letter.

On February 10, the South Sudanese government reported that the war had slowed the flow due to a lack of diesel supply to PS4, which is needed to heat the crude oil to prevent it from gelling.

The government said the low temperature in the area in the preceding days was 15 degrees Celsius, indicating a lower ground temperature, which increased the risk of gelling.

The minister says mud pumps received from the DAR Petroleum Operating Company (DPOC in South Sudan) have been sent to the area between PS4 and PS5 to pump the crude. The other challenge, however, is that there is a significant amount of cold crude that is stuck in the transportation system and needs to be heated to allow more flow. 

The war in Sudan adds to the challenges South Sudan faces in maximising its only major resource - oil - to fund government and other operations. South Sudan's oil production fell from 160,000 barrels per day in 2022 to 140,000 barrels per day in 2023. This is a far cry from the previous peak of 350,000 barrels per day before civil war broke out in 2013.