[Editor's note: This story was updated at 10:35 a.m. CST Nov. 21.]

Russia's Zarubezhneft has signed a memorandum of understanding with South Sudan to explore four oil blocks, South Sudan's petroleum minister said Nov. 20.

The oil company was awaiting more information on the blocks from the Petroleum Ministry before starting exploration, Petroleum Minister Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth told Reuters.

Other foreign firms active in South Sudan's oil industry include China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC), Malaysia's Petronas and India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC Videsh).

The minister said the country's oil production had risen to 135,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) from 130,000 bbl/d in August.

He said South Sudan wanted to push production back up to 350,000 bbl/d, the level achieved in 2011 when the country secured independence from Sudan and before it slid into civil conflict.

A peace deal, between President Salva Kiir and rebels led by his former deputy Riek Machar, was signed in September.