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

    Wife of IS Leader Charged in Death of US Hostage

    Suspect allegedly admitted to being responsible for American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who officials say was sexually abused and ‘owned’ by one IS member

    Year of the Monkey Could Prove Economic Balancing Act for China

    China is up against a tricky situation on the financial front, facing the need to fight capital flight while also stopping a further slide of foreign currency reserves

    Runners Attempt 26-mile South Pole Marathon in Sub-Zero Temperatures

    How alluring is running 26.2 miles at 10,000 feet when it’s minus 31 Celsius out?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.