British oil company White Nile has started drilling its first well in a disputed 67,000 square km (25,870 sq mile) concession in semi-autonomous south Sudan, a company official said on Friday.

French energy company Total SA disputes White Nile"s contract with the south Sudan government, which has given the British company part of an oil exploration block that the central government had allocated to Total.

 

Philip Ward, White Nile"s chief operations officer in south Sudan, said drilling had started on Thursday on the well, in a remote and "extremely challenging" area 200 km north of the southern capital of Juba. It is due to be completed within 29 days. He said the well would be 2,400 meters deep.

 

"We will know hopefully within 45 days the potential hydrocarbons in the area," Ward said, adding that the firm would take 60 meters of coring for analysis to determine the type of oil and viscosity.

 

Others put ethics over the bottom line

 

Conversely, and at the same time, aerospace company Rolls Royce PLC said Thursday that due to concerns about humanitarian abuses it has suspended sales to Sudan, reported The Associated Press. The aerospace company principally supplies diesel engines to the oil and gas industry in Sudan, said Martin Brodie, the company"s head of communications for Asia and the Middle East. Brodie said the company would gradually withdraw support services in Sudan. The company has no business activity in Darfur, he added. The decision was made earlier this week, Brodie said, but was not formally announced.

 

White Nile, which is 50 percent owned by south Sudan"s state petroleum firm Nilepet, has estimated that it has 3 billion to 5 billion barrels of oil in its block Ba concession, but it will take four years before oil starts to flow from the concession. The same block was part of a larger concession assigned to Total by the Khartoum government before the country"s 21-year north-south civil war, which ended with a 2005 peace agreement that gave the south semi-autonomous status.

 

The former southern rebels who now dominate the government of south Sudan divided up Total"s block and assigned part of it to White Nile. Most of Sudan"s oil lies in the landlocked south, although refineries and pipelines are in the north. Much of White Nile"s block in Jonglei state is part of a huge swampy area in the south, called the Sudd.

 

PIN/TURKISHDAILYNEWS.COM

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