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Heavy damage to key Sudan oil facility

South Sudan's army alleges that Sudanese warplanes bombed a Heglig oil processing facility (© 2009 AFP)

Sudan’s main oil processing facility in the key oil region of Heglig is heavily damaged, after South Sudanese troops occupied the area, an AFP correspondent reported on Monday.

He said a storage tank has been destroyed by fire, eight generators which provided power to the facility are also burned, and some oil is leaking onto the ground at the plant operated by Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC).

Abdel Azim Hassan, a Sudanese supervising engineer with the firm, accused South Sudan of the damage, which halted production at Heglig.

“They destroyed the main electricity station which supplied the oil fields and the central processing station,” he said, adding the control rooms and safety system for the processing facility were also destroyed by “professional” saboteurs.

“Now we are working to maintain the stations as quickly as possible,” initially by restoring manual operation, he said.

South Sudan’s army alleged during its occupation that Sudan had bombed the Heglig area “indiscriminately”, and that an air raid struck a Heglig oil processing facility, setting it ablaze last Thursday.

A day later the South announced a withdrawal of its forces. Sudan said its army forced them out, ending a 10-day occupation that sparked fears of a wider war.

During the occupation, a foreign diplomat said South Sudan forces “have positioned their tanks right beside the oil facilities so, if the Sudanese bomb, they will also destroy those facilities”.

The AFP correspondent said three oil company vehicles were severely damaged and two nearby oil wells had been burned in the area now heavily guarded by Sudanese troops.

GNPOC is a joint operating company 40 percent owned by China’s CNPC and 30 percent by Petronas of Malaysia, according to the company website.

The diplomat said earlier that it would be “very difficult” for Sudan to restart production in Heglig, causing further economic damage to a bankrupt economy.

South Sudan separated last July, taking with it about 75 percent of Sudan’s oil production and billions of dollars in revenue,

Before separation, Southern oil represented more than a third of Khartoum’s revenues and its largest source of hard currency, leaving the government struggling for alternatives since then.

Inflation has risen month after month, exceeding 20 percent, and Sudan’s currency is plunging in value.

Even before South Sudan’s April 10 occupation of Heglig, which coincided with air strikes against the South, the Heglig area had been affected by previous clashes between the two sides, a Sudanese oil engineer said earlier.

He said in late March that normal daily output of 60,000 barrels in the area — about half the country’s total — had fallen to 40,000 because some wells were affected by the fighting. He gave no further details.

The government denied the earlier damage.

Signature : HEGLIG, Sudan (AFP)

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