China to evacuate South Sudan oil workers to capital

BEIJING Fri Dec 20, 2013 5:29am EST

BEIJING (Reuters) - China National Petroleum Company, a main oil investor in South Sudan, is evacuating oil workers to the capital, Juba, amid continued fighting in the world's newest country, a company official and state media said on Friday.

State news agency Xinhua said CNPC planned to fly out 32 workers.

"We are arranging the orderly evacuation of our workers, but the affected oilfield was not operated by CNPC," said a CNPC media official, without commenting on whether the company's oil production was affected.

Xinhua said an oilfield in the northern part of South Sudan, operated by a consortium of Indian, Malaysian and South Sudanese companies, was caught up in unrest on Thursday that killed 14 South Sudanese oil workers.

China's Foreign Ministry said that the embassy there would help evacuate Chinese nationals.

"The embassy will continue to urge the government of South Sudan to take measures to protect the safety of Chinese workers and organizations," ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.

China has expressed concern about the unrest and urged a swift return to peace.

CNPC is major shareholder in two oil consortia that operate in South Sudan - Petrodar, which also counts Malaysian state oil firm Petronas as a partner, and the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC). India's ONGC Videsh also operates oilfields, and France's Total has exploration acreage in country.

South Sudan, a nation the size of France, has the third-largest reserves in Sub-Saharan Africa after Angola and Nigeria, according to BP.

Oil production, which had been about 245,000 barrels per day, supplies the government with most of its revenues.

The conflict in South Sudan has killed hundreds and deepened ethnic divisions in the two-year-old nation. South Sudanese government troops battled to regain control of a flashpoint town and sent forces to quell fighting in a vital oil producing area on Thursday, the fifth day of the conflict.

A United Nations official reported on Thursday that about 200 oil workers who sought refuge at a U.N. base in Unity State, a South Sudanese oil-producing region bordering Sudan, were expected to be evacuated by their employers, without naming the companies involved.

(Reporting by Adam Rose and Chen Aizhu; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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