“We have temporarily shut down oil production in Unity state, which was producing 45,000 barrels of oil per day,” Petroleum Minister Stephen Dhieu Dau told Reuters.
Unity has seen some of the fiercest fighting of the 10-day-old conflict and much of the state has been seized by rebels allied to former vice president Riek Machar.
The UN could nearly double the size of its peacekeeping force in South Sudan amid the conflict, while Machar and President Salva Kiir both indicated they were ready to talk to try to end a deepening conflict that has killed hundreds of people.
Information Minister Michael Makuei meanwhile dismissed claims by Machar that his rebels have taken over all the major oil fields in Unity and Upper Nile states as “wishful thinking”.
Dau said workers had been evacuated from Unity’s oilfields but that production in Upper Nile state, where most of South Sudan’s oil is extracted, remained safe and outside the reach of rebels.
“We remain with Upper Nile (state), which is producing 200,000 barrels per day,” he said.
India’s ONGC Videsh has meanwhile followed operators Malaysia’s Petronas and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) in evacuating its staff from two blocks in the conflict-hit region.
“The blocks are shut. So it made sense for us to evacuate our people as soon as possible,” an ONGC Videsh official, who did not wish to be named, told Reuters.
ONGC Videsh holds a 25% stake in the Petronas-led Sudd Petroleum Operating Company, whose Block 5A Thar Jath oilfield saw a deadly attack on 19 December that reportedly claimed the lives of 11 South Sudanese workers.
The overseas arm of the Indian state player also holds a 25% share of the CNPC-led Great Pioneer Operating Company, whose Unity oil field was reportedly attacked in violence that was said to have claimed five lives.