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Sudan will boost oil output with new wells, says minister

Sudan's revenues from oil have been hard-hit by separation from the South in 2011 as well as falling oil prices
Sudan's oil minister Makawi Mohammed Awad says the company is looking to swell output (AFP)

Sudan hopes to boost oil production by carrying out further exploration and drilling wells in new areas including conflict-hit Darfur, its oil minister said on Thursday.

"Our plan for this year is to raise production to 140,000 barrels per day" (bpd) up from 120,000 bpd in 2014, Makawi Mohammed Awad said in an interview with AFP.

When South Sudan seceded in July 2011, Khartoum lost around three quarters of its oil production in a heavy blow to the economy. 

According the International Monetary Fund, crude oil export earnings still brought Sudan $2.4bn in 2014, a significant proportion of the country’s $66bn annual GDP.

But falling global oil prices - which have more than halved in recent months - could hit Sudan hard this financial year. 

Khartoum now hopes to boost output further "by drilling new wells and repairing existing wells and increasing exploratory studies and bringing online new fields," Awad said.

One of the areas for development is in an area known as Block 12A in the conflict-hit North Darfur where "the drilling of the first well has started and there are indicators of oil and the Saudi al-Qahtani company is working," Awad said.

The western Darfur region has been gripped by a bloody conflict since 2003 when mostly black African insurgents rebelled against Khartoum's Arab-dominated government.

Further north, near Sudan's porous border with Egypt and Libya, a South African company has been carrying out exploration in an area known as Block 14, Awad said.

"We will start work in it this year and build on the study by this company," the minister said.

Most of Sudan's oil is located along the border with South Sudan.

Oil was first discovered in Sudan in the late 1970s, but the country's 22-year civil war that began in 1983 meant production only started in the 1990s.

In 1997, the US imposed a trade embargo on Sudan over charges including rights abuses, and Awad said sanctions were still harming the sector.

"I hope that they lift the sanctions because they affect some of the technology used in the oil sector and if there was no embargo our situation might be better," Awad said.

"The American sanctions led to the withdrawal of some companies from the blocks," he added, without naming the firms.

Last month, Washington eased some sanctions against Sudan by allowing Americans to send some communications hardware and software into the country.

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