November 20, 2018 / 4:20 PM / 22 days ago

Russian oil firm signs initial exploration deal with South Sudan: minister

South Sudan's Minister of Petroleum, Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, speaks during a Reuters interview in his office in Juba, South Sudan October 10, 2017. REUTERS/Jok Solomon

(The Nov. 20 story corrects company to Zarubezhneft.)

JUBA (Reuters) - Russia’s Zarubezhneft has signed a memorandum of understanding with South Sudan to explore four oil blocks, South Sudan’s petroleum minister said on Tuesday.

The company was awaiting more information on the blocks from the Petroleum Ministry before starting exploration, Petroleum Minister Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth told Reuters.

Other foreign firms active in South Sudan’s oil industry include China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), Malaysia’s Petronas and India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC Videsh).

The minister said the country’s oil production had risen to 135,000 barrels per day (bpd) from 130,000 bpd in August.

He said South Sudan wanted to push production back up to 350,000 bpd, the level achieved in 2011 when the country secured independence from Sudan and before it slid into civil conflict.

A peace deal, between President Salva Kiir and rebels led by his former deputy Riek Machar, was signed in September.

Reporting by Denis Dumo; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by David Goodman and Edmund Blair

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