JUBA, July 24 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan hopes to increase oil production to over 200,000 barrels per day in the coming months as Juba gears up to resume oil production in the Unity oil fields, a government official said on Tuesday.
Petroleum Minister Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth said the government has finalized an oil cooperation deal with neighboring Sudan, adding that technicians from both countries have accessed the oil facilities and are ready to kick off production by early October.
"We will start with 10,000 barrels per day in September and it will continue to move up because the total production of the unity oil fields is 85-90 barrels a day. We will start slowing and we move up to reach our target," Gatkuoth told a local radio station.
Juba and Khartoum last month agreed to jointly repair oil infrastructure damaged during South Sudan's ongoing civil war and allow resumption of production in the next three months.
The Khartoum Declaration also said the two countries would deploy a joint security force to protect oil facilities from further attacks.
"I can declare that all the oil fields are secured. We have deployed security forces in our borders and this decision has been taken by the leaders of the two countries," the official said.
According to the World Bank, South Sudan is the most oil-dependent nation in the world, with oil accounting for almost the totality of exports, and around 60 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).
But after the young nation descended into civil war in late 2013, oil production declined from 350,000 in 2011 to less than 130,000 barrels per day in 2014 amid soaring inflation.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands and created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.
The Gatkuoth said increased oil output would be key for the recovery of the country's struggling economy.
"Resumption of oil production is going to contribute positively to the economy of our country and this is very good news for the people of South Sudan because we need our resources to be utilized by the people," Gatkuoth added.