Libyan oil is back, vying with Saudis and Iraq

Claudia Carpenter March 15, 2018

DUBAI (Bloomberg) -- Things are looking up for Libya oil traders.

The North African country, where militants disrupted oil production for months just a year ago, is now closing in on Saudi Arabia as the third-biggest source of seaborne supply to Europe after Iraq and Russia, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Thursday. Even as the U.S. is reviving its own oil industry and exporting, Libya managed to ship more crude to America in the fourth quarter than a year earlier while supplies from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Iraq declined, the report showed.

“Libya is holding onto its recent gains,” the IEA said. While it remains a modest global exporter by volume, the politically divided nation also boosted exports to China, according to the report.

The revival hasn’t gone unnoticed by international oil companies. Earlier this month, France’s Total SA bought the Libyan assets of Marathon Oil Corp. for $450 million. Royal Dutch Shell Plc, BP Plc and PetroChina Co. have agreed on annual deals to buy Libyan crude.

Libya pumped 1.02 MMbpd in February, the fourth consecutive month when its output exceeded 1 MMbpd, the IEA said. Production stood 350,000 bpd higher than in February last year when militant attacks and protests disrupted flows, it said.

“That risk remains, although recent incidents have tended to be resolved swiftly,” the IEA said.

This year, Libya’s biggest oil field, Sharara, shut for just one day earlier this month due to a closed pipeline, according to the state-run National Oil Corp. But a separate disruption sparked by protests at the El-Feel oil field has gone on since Feb. 23, according to the IEA.

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