News / Middle East

Libyan Oil Output Cut in Half by Strikes, Disruption

FILE - Oil and gas installations are found throughout Libya. This one, built by the Italian ENI group, is on the coast near Mellitah, Libya.FILE - Oil and gas installations are found throughout Libya. This one, built by the Italian ENI group, is on the coast near Mellitah, Libya.
x
FILE - Oil and gas installations are found throughout Libya. This one, built by the Italian ENI group, is on the coast near Mellitah, Libya.
FILE - Oil and gas installations are found throughout Libya. This one, built by the Italian ENI group, is on the coast near Mellitah, Libya.
The Libyan oil industry is in the midst of its worst crisis since the 2011 civil war because of lawlessness and strikes at major petroleum facilities.
 
In the latest disruption, security guards re-imposed a strike they called off over the weekend, forcing the closure of Libya’s two main crude oil export terminals. Operations had resumed on Sunday at the ports of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf after a two-week stoppage. The two ports have a combined export capacity of around 600,000 barrels per day.
 
The work stoppage came just hours after gunmen wounded a guard and ransacked an oil service center Sunday evening in the eastern oasis town of Awjila. Libyan officials said they believe the attack was linked to competition between militia groups over oilfield contracts and the placement of their members in the newly created national Petroleum Facilities Guard, a force under the direct authority of the Defense Ministry, but made up largely of former militia members who have often fought among themselves. 
 
Last week, Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan warned of the economic consequences of the off-and-on disruption to oilfield, production and export terminals. He said oil exports had plunged by 70 percent – a devastating financial setback for Libya, which relies on oil exports for nearly all of its foreign revenues.
 
Oil industry officials said the export terminals at the Es Sider, Amna and Sirtica oilfields had already filled up their storage tanks to capacity and had to shut down production.
 
Libya's oil minister said Monday the government was working to end the disruptions by meeting with the protesters and appointing a new head of the Petroleum Facilities Guard -- but that appointment also appears to have enraged some of the strikers.
 
“Groups closed the ports of Ras Lanouf, Zeuitina, Al-Sedra and Al-Hariga, forcing a drop in production to less than 30 percent of normal levels,” Zeidan told reporters.
 
General insecurity adds to the crisis
 
Over the past few months the oilfields and export terminals have been affected by everything from striking security guards to militias fighting over who should get security contracts. There also has been criminal looting at petroleum service centers and production facilities and fears of terrorist activity by al-Qaida or other jihadist groups. 
 
A surge in bombings, assassination and a mass jail breakout in the country’s second-largest city, Behghazi has added to the insecurity.
 
Libyan Oil and Gas minister Abdel Bari Ali al-Arousi is deailing with a lot of problems these days.Libyan Oil and Gas minister Abdel Bari Ali al-Arousi is deailing with a lot of problems these days.
x
Libyan Oil and Gas minister Abdel Bari Ali al-Arousi is deailing with a lot of problems these days.
Libyan Oil and Gas minister Abdel Bari Ali al-Arousi is deailing with a lot of problems these days.
According to the country’s oil minister, Abdelbari al-Aroussi, Libya is now only exporting 330,000 barrels through the port at Zawiya, the one remaining export terminal that so far has been free of disruption or strike activity by guards demanding back pay and better salaries.
 
Oil accounts for more than 80 percent of Libya’s gross national production and more than 95 percent of exports. The country’s oil production stood at 1.6 million barrels a day just before the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi. During the NATO-backed uprising oil production it shrunk to just 60,000 barrels a day, according to the International Energy Agency.
 
Libya’s transitional authorities were quick to encourage foreign oil companies and the Libyan National Oil Corporation to resume production quickly after fighting stopped. In the autumn of 2011, to the surprise of foreign oil experts, they claimed production almost matched pre-war levels.
 
But oil industry insiders told VOA they thought the numbers were exaggerated and output was at least a quarter of a billion barrels a day short of government claims. Some still remain skeptical about government figures.
 
“It isn’t that hard to play around with the numbers,” said a foreign oil consultant, who declined to be named, fearing to do so could jeopardize his future work for Libya’s National Oil Corporation. “Production did resume quite quickly because everyone took a short cut when it came to repairs and delayed replacing pipelines and equipment that are past their optimum life spans.”
 
Long-term problems
 
Security issues and the resulting supply disruptions plaguing Libya’s oil industry are deterring some major foreign oil companies from competing for contracts to manage the fields, say oil analysts.  Industry experts say some oil majors such as Royal Dutch Shell have been cautious about bidding for contracts or expanding operations in Libya.
 
Although denying it was pulling out of Libya, late last year Shell suspended some exploration projects in the country, arguing the results had been disappointing. Industry insiders say a key reason for that decision revolved around security concerns.
 
“Shell wants a stable security environment – and they aren’t the only ones worried about strikes, opportunistic gun attacks and spotty security. No one wants to see a repeat of the al-Qaida attack earlier this year in Algeria,” said a foreign oil consultant, who has reviewed the workings of the recently created Petroleum Facilities Guard.  
 
“The Libyan government is still a long way from consolidating control of the country’s oilfields, pipelines and ports,” he says.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs