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South Sudan: Pipelines and Oil Pollution

Article By Prof. Magnus Uju Amajirionwu, DPhil.

Originally posted on Linkedin: http://bit.ly/2QyQbMx

The South Sudan government recently announced plans to relocate thousands of people affected by the oil pollution in the former Unity State and other areas in the north of South Sudan. South Sudan’s Parliamentary Committee on Petroleum and Mining made the proposal to relocate those affected by oil pollution following an outcry from the affected populations and lobby groups. The head of the Parliamentary Committee, Mr James Lual, who visited the pollution site recently, confirmed that the situation was grave.

Lack of Environmental Regulation

Dangerous heavy metals used in oil production in war-torn South Sudan have leaked into drinking water sources used by 180,000 people with life-threatening health risks. Toxicological tests carried out on hair samples from 96 volunteers living around the Thar Jath oil processing plant in South Sudan’s northern Unity region revealed they were highly intoxicated with pollutants such as lead and barium. South Sudan is estimated to produce around 150,000 barrels a day — down from 350,000 at independence in 2011. Oil wells and facilities have been badly damaged in the fighting. The contamination of the environment in the north has added to the factors forcing more than a half a million people to flee the region.

The lack of environmental standards and guidelines to safeguard the exploration and exploitation in the extractive industry has led to pollution in the oil fields and in the surrounding areas. This trend needs to be checked through the formulation of environmental policies, standards and guidelines and the enforcement of these instruments.


Pipeline integrity requires new regulatory scrutiny in South Sudan. Operator interest on pipeline and asset integrity should be addressed. Onshore leaky pipelines must be concerning to the operators. There are three steps in addressing asset integrity. Addressing asset integrity has three main parts: prevention, detection, and repair. Improved operational practices and new technologies are being developed and implemented to address the prevention, detection, and repair of corrosion in assets along with other asset integrity programs. New materials and techniques are driving forward next generation corrosion prevention. New coating materials can be used to increase the lifespan of pipelines. Advanced and lightweight polymer aerogels can be applied to both the interior and exterior of pipelines to improve corrosion and compression resistance of steel lines, increasing the lifespan of lines and decreasing the chance of a pipeline failure.


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