Satellites Reveal Destruction of Key Pipeline Infrastructure in Disputed Heglig Oil Field Between the Sudans

WASHINGTON – The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has published new imagery indicating that as Sudan and South Sudan clashed over an oil field near the disputed border town of Heglig, a key part of the pipeline infrastructure was destroyed. The damage appears to be so severe, and in such a critical part of the oil infrastructure, that it would likely stop oil flow in the area, according to SSP.

Based on Harvard Humanitarian Initiative analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery, SSP has concluded that what appears to be an oil collection manifold – equipment which allows for the diversion or combination of oil flows without interruption – was apparently blown up in some type of explosion. SSP says it cannot make a determination whether the damage resulted from aerial bombardment or ground action. Both nations have accused the other of deliberately damaging the oil field. Both sides claim sovereignty over Heglig, which South Sudan refers to as Panthou.

SSP stated: “The destroyed structure appears consistent with a collection manifold because of its shape and its location at the junction of multiple pipelines. The destruction of this particular collection manifold would likely result in the immediate cessation of oil flow in the area.”

Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast said:

“As the conflict has escalated over the last few weeks, the costs now include both lost lives and damaged oil infrastructure. As the losses pile up on both sides, the danger of a full-scale war continues to increase.” 

Enough Project Executive Director John C. Bradshaw said:

“This destruction of oil infrastructure benefits neither side. To avoid the mutually disastrous consequences of an all-out war, both Sudans must return to the negotiating table to iron out a comprehensive peace deal that resolves the underlying issues, including border demarcation and oil revenue sharing.”

After reportedly repulsing an attack by Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) on Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) positions in the town of Teshwin, on the South Sudanese border, SPLA retaliated by advancing into Heglig on 9 April 2012.

On 15 April, South Sudan's information minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, told reporters in Juba that the aerial bombardment of the oil facility in the Heglig region had caused serious damage. He stated, “They are bombing the central processing facility and the [oil] tanks to rubble as we speak.” On 20 April, South Sudan’s military spokesman, Col. Philip Aguer, announced that SPLA would withdraw from Heglig within three days. On 21 April, Sudan’s Acting Minister of Information, Sana Hamad, reported that the Government of Sudan possessed evidence of intentional sabotage to the oil installations carried out by forces of the SPLA.

Harvard Carr Center for Human Rights Policy Executive Director Charlie Clements, MD, said:

“The continuing conflict between Sudan and South Sudan endangers the human security of civilians on both sides of the border.”

Read the latest SSP report, Pipeline: Evidence of the Destruction of Key Oil Infrastructure in Heglig: http://satsentinel.org/report/pipeline-evidence-destruction-key-oil-infrastructure-heglig

View or download DigitalGlobe satellite imagery: http://www.flickr.com/photos/enoughproject/sets/72157629504710896/with/6954029742/

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About the Satellite Sentinel Project 

The Satellite Sentinel Project, http://satsentinel.org, combines satellite imagery analysis and field reports with Google’s Map Maker to deter the resumption of full-scale civil war between North and South Sudan and to hold all parties accountable for human rights crimes. Not On Our Watch provided seed money to launch SSP. The Enough Project contributes field reports and policy analysis, and, together with Not On Our Watch, pressures policymakers by urging the public to act. Google and Trellon collaborated to design the web platform. Harvard Humanitarian Initiative provides research and leads the collection, human rights analysis, and corroboration of on-the-ground reports that contextualizes the imagery. DigitalGlobe provides satellite imagery and additional analysis.