VIENNA (Reuters) - South Sudan is exploring the benefits of joining the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries as the African nation aims to more than double crude production within 12 months, its oil minister said on Wednesday.
The world’s newest country has seen its crude output almost halve in recent years, to about 135,000 barrels per day (bpd) currently, amid security concerns and internal strife.
Yet South Sudan, which has sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest reserves and is the only mature oil producer in East Africa, has long sought to use its oil wealth to boost its global prominence.
“I want to explore the possibilities of my country benefiting from membership in OPEC,” Minister Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth told reporters in Vienna ahead of the OPEC meeting on Thursday. South Sudan will not have a vote on any OPEC policy change at the talks but will be present as an observer.
Within a year, South Sudan should be producing 350,000 bpd of oil, the minister said. At that point, the country could participate in wider OPEC production cuts, he said.
South Sudan supports a six-month extension of OPEC’s supply cut agreement, with a reevaluation at the end of every half year, the minister said, adding he feels the existing OPEC production curbs have helped lift oil prices.
“We don’t want to flood the market with more production. We need to make sure the prices are stabilising for the benefit of the people of the world,” the minister said.
The country is negotiating with Total SA, Tullow Oil Plc and others to invest in its oil sector.
Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Dale Hudson