South Sudan's Jan crude exports drop, conflict disrupts output -sources

Reuters

* Jan Dar Blend exports to be about 21 pct less than planned

* Nile Blend exports cut after production halt in SouthSudan (Adds Dar Blend's capacity in paragraph 7)

By Florence Tan

SINGAPORE, Jan 8 (Reuters) - South Sudan reduced crude oilexports in December and January as an internal strife disruptedproduction, industry sources familiar with the matter said onWednesday.

The world's newest state is on the brink of a civil warafter fighting erupted between the government and rebels threeweeks ago, prompting oilfield operators to evacuate most oftheir staff.

The latest supply disruption occurred barely six monthsafter South Sudan resumed production following a year-long haltdue to a dispute with neighbouring Sudan.

Exports of heavy sweet Dar Blend will drop to 4.6 millionbarrels, or about 148,000 barrels per day (bpd), in January in arevised loading programme, one source said, down about 21percent from 187,000 bpd originally planned.

Two of the seven cargoes that had been scheduled for loadingin January have been deferred to February, he said.

Unipec, the trading arm of Asia's largest refiner Sinopec , had bought six cargoes while a tradingfirm purchased the remaining one.

It was not immediately clear what the current production forDar Blend was, although a second source said output had droppedmore than 26 percent to about 140,000 bpd.

When production was running smoothly, the country's Darblend output was at 190,000 bpd, the source added. Officialestimates put the figure at 200,000 bpd.

South Sudan exports all of its Dar Blend output as it doesnot have a refinery to process the crude.

Dar Blend is produced in the Upper Nile state, in Blocks 3and 7 that are operated by the Petrodar Operating Company.

China National Petroleum Corp and Malaysia'sPetronas, major shareholders of Petrodar, could not beimmediately reached for comment.

Exports of Nile Blend, another Sudanese crude, have alsodropped after production was shut in South Sudan's Unity statelast month. The grade is also produced in Sudan where output isstable.

In a revised loading programme, two Nile Blend cargoes willload in January, down from three originally, the sources said.These include a cargo that was scheduled to load in December.

Supply cuts in South Sudan and Libya have supported Brentcrude futures although physical markets, especially WestAfrican grades, remained well supplied.

CNPC, Petronas and India's ONGC Videsh holdequity stakes in Sudanese oilfields producing Nile Blend. (Additional reporting by Judy Hua in Beijing; Editing by HimaniSarkar)

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