Libya’s oil output nudges higher as Wintershall resumes production

By Taghreed Almadani, Grant Smith and Laura Hurst on 9/28/2016

DUBAI (Bloomberg) -- Libya, struggling to revive its energy industry after five years of armed conflict, restarted production at an eastern oil field and was poised to export crude from the port of Zueitina for the first time since November.

Germany’s Wintershall AG began pumping at Concession 96 in As Sarah field on Sept. 16, and is producing 35,000 bpd, a company official said Wednesday in an emailed response to questions. Wintershall restarted production at the request of Libya’s National Oil Corp. (NOC) and will send oil from the field to Zueitina for export, the official said.

The tanker Ionic Anassa is due to arrive at Zueitina on Oct. 3, according to a signal from the ship. It would be the first vessel to load crude there since force majeure restrictions were lifted earlier this month.

“Libya’s output is showing the first signs of a credible increase,” said Olivier Jakob, managing director of Petromatrix GmbH in Zug, Switzerland.

Libya, with Africa’s largest crude reserves, produced 260,000 bpd last month, data compiled by Bloomberg show. It has gradually boosted output and is now pumping 485,000 bpd, National Oil Corp. Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said in an interview in Algiers on Wednesday as OPEC members prepared to meet in the Algerian capital. The country produced about 1.6 MMbopd before the 2011 uprising that ousted longtime leader Moammar Al Qaddafi, but output has withered as rival militias vied to control energy facilities.

Three ports

The NOC removed force majeure at Zueitina and the export terminals of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf on Sept. 14, after reaching a deal with Khalifa Haftar, commander of the armed forces controlling the terminals. Force majeure, a legal status protecting a party from liability if it can’t fulfill a contract for reasons beyond its control, was declared after the ports came under attack. Ras Lanuf, Libya’s third-biggest oil port, resumed exports this month. Zueitina will ship two oil cargoes by the end of the month, and operations at the port are normal, the NOC’s Sanalla said.

Renewed crude shipments from Zueitina would give an additional boost to Libya’s economy as rival administrations toil to form a unified national government. Islamic State militants exploited a power vacuum in Libya after the country split between two rival administrations in 2014.

Wintershall is part of the world’s biggest chemicals company, BASF SE, which also operates in plastics, agriculture and natural gas.

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