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Singapore — Sudan is eagerly awaiting the expiration of US trade sanctions on October 13, which it hopes will stimulate significant international investment interest in its upstream and downstream sectors, its state minister for oil told S&P Global Platts in an interview Monday.

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Sudan has already fielded inquiries from several companies -- both state-owned and private -- in anticipation of an exploration bid round the African country aims to announce after the sanctions are lifted, Saadeldin Abdelmagid said on the sidelines of the APPEC conference in Singapore.

"We have had a lot of investors come to Sudan to see about the opportunities," Abdelmagid said, adding Sudan would prefer to deal with state-owned companies.

Included in the bid round will be 15 exploration blocks with a potential resource of 70 billion barrels.

The blocks are part of Sudan's aspirations of increasing production from its current 80,000 to 90,000 b/d to as much as 400,000 to 500,000 b/d, Abdelmagid said.

"That is our dream," he said.

All of the country's Nile Brent crude is exported to Asian customers on term contracts, mostly in China and Malaysia, which dominate participation in Sudan's oil fields.

Sudan is also seeking to build a new refinery in Port Sudan with a capacity of 100,000-150,000 b/d, Abdelmagid said. That would add to the country's three current refineries, which have a design capacity of 130,000 b/d but run at closer to 90,000 b/d.

Malaysia's Petronas had been linked to the project, which has faced significant delays and ballooning cost estimates.

Potentially boosting Sudan's investment prospects is a deal signed with landlocked neighbor South Sudan last week that would allow border trade between the two countries and enable development of South Sudan's long-neglected fields.

"They want us to assist them to get the oil from the wells," Abdelmagid said. "We have an agreement on that, and I think this signing of the agreement is a good sign that the relationship between the south and north governments is very good."

The two sides have been in conflict frequently since South Sudan gained independence in 2011. South Sudan relies on a pipeline that runs through Sudan to the Red Sea to export its crude.

The US first imposed sanctions on Sudan in 1997, accusing the country of sponsoring international terrorism.

In January, the then US President Barack Obama agreed to ease the sanctions, temporarily lifting restrictions on Sudan's petroleum and petrochemical sectors, with a plan to make the relief permanent in July.

But upon taking office, President Donald Trump extended that deadline to October 13 to further review Sudan's progress on counter-terrorism efforts.

US State Department officials were not immediately for comment on whether the Trump Administration would allow the sanctions to expire on that date.

Sudan, as well as South Sudan, is a member of the 24-country OPEC/non-OPEC coalition that agreed to cut oil production by a combined 1.8 million b/d to help rebalance the market. Sudan's quota under the deal is 96,000 b/d.

Abdelmagid said he was pleased with the cuts' impact on the market so far, though he holds out hope that prices recover further.

"I think the deal with non-OPEC members is very important," he said. "We hope it lasts for a long time. The stability of the market is very important for us."

On Friday, after a meeting of the monitoring committee overseeing the agreement, OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo praised Sudan, along with Angola, Azerbaijan, Brunei, Equatorial Guinea and Saudi Arabia, for their strong compliance and "sacrificing in the interests of all".

--Herman Wang,
--Takeo Kumagai,
--Edited by Dan Lalor,