Oil output in South Sudan's Unity state delayed by fighting

NAIROBI, April 17 Thu Apr 17, 2014 12:17pm EDT

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NAIROBI, April 17 (Reuters) - A new bout of fighting in South Sudan's oil-producing Unity state will delay the resumption of output in the region, a senior oil ministry official said on Thursday.

The latest fighting shattered several weeks of calm in Unity after warring parties signed a ceasefire in January to end the conflict, which was triggered by a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar.

Rebels loyal to Machar this week recaptured the capital of Unity Bentiu, where the Juba government is trying to get the oil flows back after stoppages in December when fighting erupted.

The oil ministry official who did not wish to be named said the rebels damaged a refinery in Tharjath, injuring three Russian oil workers at the facility.

"The oilfields have to be totally secure to warrant resumption," said the official.

Production in Upper Nile state's Paloch oilfields, where output has not been hampered by the conflict, stood at 159,000 barrels per day this week.

The country, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011, produced 260,000 barrels a day before the outbreak of the conflict in December.

Oil firms in South Sudan, a country roughly the size of France, include China National Petroleum Corp, India's ONGC Videsh and Malaysia's Petronas. (Reporting by Carl Odera; Editing by Duncan Miriri and David Evans)

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