Major global oil companies say they are looking to soon reopen their Libyan oil fields if rebel forces complete their takeover of the country, but estimates vary widely on how easily or quickly that could occur.
Before the Libyan uprising started in February, the North African nation produced as much as 1.8 million barrels of oil a day, about 2 percent of the world's production. But the oil giants shut their operations and pulled their personnel out of the country as the rebels fought to oust Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.
As a result, the country's oil production dwindled to a minuscule 60,000 barrels a day. Now, as the rebel forces claim to have taken over major portions of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, some of the oil companies say they will seek to resume operations when it is safe to do so. BP, Marathon Oil and the Italian firm Eni are among the major companies looking to resume production.
But the companies say that until they have a chance to inspect their fields, they will not know how fast that can occur. Some of their production facilities may have been damaged by the fighting, or simply may have been sitting idle for a half-year.
Various oil industry analysts say some production could resume within a couple of months after the end of fighting, yet could take as much as two years to reach pre-revolt levels. The New York investment bank Goldman Sachs predicted that the country's production will average 250,000 barrels a day next year.
Libyan oil is valued on world markets because it is a light, sweet crude variety with low sulfur content. About 85 percent of the country's output was exported to Europe.