Khartoum lifts embargo on South Sudan oil
Sudan on Thursday authorised companies to transport oil from South Sudan, in line with a timetable that will release billions of dollars in crucial revenues stalled over security concerns.
"Ministry of oil gives directives to companies to reprocess, transport and export oil of South Sudan," the official SUNA news agency said in a brief dispatch.
The South's government in Juba last week ordered oil companies to resume production after a 14-month dispute with Khartoum.
But it may still take months for significant income to reach their impoverished treasuries because of technical issues, industry experts say.
South Sudan halted crude production in early 2012, cutting off most of its revenue after accusing Khartoum of theft in a row over export fees.
At talks in Addis Ababa this month, the two countries finally settled on detailed timetables to ease tensions, after months of intermittent border clashes, by resuming oil flows and implementing eight other key pacts.
The deals remained dormant after signing in September as Khartoum pushed for guarantees that South Sudan would no longer back rebels fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
At the AU-led talks in the Ethiopian capital, Sudan softened its stance on the security guarantees, allowing the oil agreement and others including a border buffer zone to go ahead, observers said.
The timetable set a March 24 deadline for both Juba and Khartoum to order a resumption of oil production, processing and transportation.
South Sudan split from the north in 2011 with roughly 75 percent of the 470,000 barrels per day of crude produced by the formerly unified country.
The separation left Khartoum without most of its export earnings and half of its fiscal revenues, sending the pound currency into decline while inflation rose to more than 40 percent, where it remains.
Refineries and export pipelines stayed under Khartoum's jurisdiction but the two countries could not agree on how much Juba should pay to use that infrastructure.
South Sudan said petroleum provided 98 percent of its revenue.
The oil deal is worth $1 billion-$1.5 billion annually in transit fees and other payments for Sudan, an international economist has estimated.
Billions more dollars would reach South Sudan from its oil exports.
The timetable document says that after the order to resume, processing and transportation will occur as soon as technically possible.
Operators must conduct the start-up "in a technically and environmentally sound manner and in accordance with international best practice," it says.
Oil companies in South Sudan include Malaysian state-owned Petronas, China's National Petroleum Company (CNPC), and the Sudd Petroleum Operating Company (SPOC), a joint venture between Petronas and South Sudan's government.
The two countries have a history of signing pacts with each other but not following through.
From a low of around seven pounds on the widely-used black market, Sudan's currency has strengthened since the timetable agreement brought a more positive tone in relations with its neighbour.
The currency traded at just above six pounds for one United States dollar on Thursday.