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ABU DHABI, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Sudan’s oil minister said on Tuesday he expected bidding to develop the country’s oil and gas blocks to start in the third quarter of 2019, in a move he said would herald the country’s “second oil boom.”
“I really expect a lot of companies to come, particularly now since we are working ... on the second phase of discussions with the United States so we can have this embargo lifted,” Azhari Abdalla told reporters on the sidelines of an energy conference in Abu Dhabi.
Although trade sanctions were removed last year, Sudan remains on the United States’ list of state sponsors of terror, discouraging investors and making it ineligible for debt relief.
Abdalla said he hoped the embargo on Sudan would be lifted completely by the middle of next year, paving the way for increased investment.
Last week, the U.S. State Department said it was working with Sudan on issues such as improving humanitarian access, expanding counter-terrorism cooperation, and making progress on human rights as conditions for removal from the list.
It said Sudan’s removal from the list could happen between six months and four years’ times.
“All of these blocks ... are onshores we already discovered or they are tested proven hydrocarbon deposits,” Abdalla said.
“We are also in bilateral negotiations,” he added. “If we are convinced that an offer will meet our expectations, we will go ahead even before the bid.”
One project he said was under discussion with foreign investors was a refinery along the Red Sea with a capacity of 200,000 barrels per day (bpd).
The secession of the south of the country in 2011 took with it three quarters of Sudan’s oil output. It is currently producing around 75,000 bpd, the minister said.
Abdalla told Reuters he expected Sudan to produce 100,000 to 110,000 bpd of oil by 2021, and for the country to become an exporter at the end of the next five years.
With regards to the country’s own fuel shortage, he said a lack of hard currency needed for imports and issues with the country’s oil refinery remained.
“I ask God that the crisis that happened last time does not happen again,” he said, referring to this summer when both factors coincided. (Reporting by Nafisa Eltahir; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Mark Potter)