Tripoli, 14 December 2016
By Libya Herald reporters
Libyan oil output could approach a million barrels a day if the blockade of a key western pipeline is lifted as reported today.
Protestors, who in 2014 closed the pipelines at Riyayna which run from the Sharara and El-Fil (Elephant) oilfields to the coast, have announced they will reopen the taps tomorrow.
Potentially this could deliver some 365,000 barrels per day of extra production. When added to the existing 600,000 bpd, year-end output could exceed the 800,000 bpd target set by National Oil Corporation chief Mustafa Sanalla in October.
However even if the Petroleum Facilities Guard unit that has mounted the blockade honours its promise, it will not in fact simply be a matter of turning on a tap. Pipeline maintenance and restoring production at oil fields shut in for more two years will not be an overnight operation.
The statement announcing the blockade’s end said “The National Oil Corporation should start its work as soon as possible and we, as the Petroleum Facilities Guard, pledge to protect and defend the wealth of the Libyan state”.
The PFG unit involved is Zintani but relations between Zintan and Hafter have reportedly become strained. However as International Crisis Group analyst Claudia Gazzini pointed out today, the PFG statement specifically describes thitself as being part of the Libyan National Army. In addition, aides to the LNA’s western commander Idris Madi confirmed the statement to Reuters.
This being the case, Hafter’s LNA in the last four months will have restored to the NOC control of both the eastern Oil Crescent export terminals and the output from the western oil fields.
UPDATE: According to the oil industry publication Bunkerword, the first cargo of crude in almost exactly two years is about to be loaded in Sidra aboard an AFRAMAX (Average Freight Rate Assessment (AFRA) tanker.