Libyan National Army forces controlled by General Haftar took control of many crude oil facilities in the 400km+ oil crescent on September 11, allowing for the first barrels to be exported for 18 months.

Libyan National Army forces controlled by General Haftar took control of many crude oil facilities in the 400km+ oil crescent on September 11, allowing for the first barrels to be exported for 18 months.

Operation Odyssey Lightning was conducted the day before popular holiday Eid al-Adha. Early on September 11, military convoys simultaneously invaded all oil ports controlled by Ibrahim Jadhran, the Commander of Petroleum Facilities Guards, subordinate to the Tripoli Presidential Council. A few hours later, Ahmed Mismari, spokesman for the Libyan military command, announced the army’s full control over Port Zueitina, Sidra and Ras Lanuf (365 km west of Benghazi), all key oil facilities. He added that oil ports have now come under the control of the branch of the National Oil Corporation (NOC) headed by Naji Mughrabi and based in Tripoli.

The subsequent flow of 20,000 crude oil barrels from Oil Field 103 (370 km south-west of Benghazi) to Port Zueitina (135 km west of Benghazi) marked the recovery of the oil sector in eastern Libya. After Operation Odyssey Lightning, oil production in the east of Libya increased to 250,000 barrels per day from no more than 140,000 before the operation.

Barrels flow again

 “The port’s 15 reservoirs received nearly 128,000 barrels of crude oil produced by the oasis area fields (370 km south-west of Benghazi),” said Marie Abredan, Head of Oil Workers Federation of Port Zueitina. The capacity of these reservoirs is nearly 6.5 million barrels. They receive not only the production of the state-owned Zueitina Company but also the production of Arabian Gulf Oil Company, according to Gulf spokesman Omran Zwai.

“Nafura Field in the oasis region began to produce and transfer crude oil to ‘Amal’ field reservoirs, located in the same area, and then to Port Zueitina,” Zwai said and stressed that on September 15 the company field, which is the largest oil producer in Libya, pumped 40,000 barrels of previously stored crude oil.

There are nine key companies active in the Libyan oil sector. The NOC wholly owns five oil producing companies; three foreign companies are also active as well as one private-public partnership.

Another oil valve will be opened “any time,” said petroleum operations inspector at Harouge Oil Operations Nasser Delaab. He predicted that ‘Amal Field’ will resume production within two days at most. The expected production of the pipeline connecting the oil-rich region to Port Zueitina is more than 50,000 barrels per day.

“Ports prepared to export”

The NOC announced in a statement on its website on September 15 that its ports were fully prepared to export. The tanker Seadelta was the first to dock on Libyan shores, reaching Ras Lanuf oil port (365 km west of Benghazi) to load nearly 800,000 barrels of crude oil produced by the Harouge. Delaab told Correspondents that another Greek tanker was expected to arrive on September 21 to ship nearly 600,000 barrels of crude oil to Italy, the first beneficiary of Libyan oil. Delaab stressed these were the first official crude oil exports since December 2014. Yet optimism is high among key officials.

“We are ready to export,” said Zueitina Port’s Abredan, announcing that a further 1.35 million barrels are waiting for export, about 240 km east of Ras Lanuf and Zueitina ports.

Volatile control

Threats to the renewed economic vein remain however. Jadhran’s forces battled with the Libyan army to retake the oil crescent on September 18, yet the renascent oil exports were unaffected.

“Jadhran was able to enter Sidra oil port (385 km west of Benghazi) in the morning. But he pulled out after three hours,” Mohammed Alazumi, head of the press office of Battalion 302 of the Libyan army, told Correspondents. Mohammad Sadiq, a spokesperson for the Oil Installations Guard, confirmed that the clashes lasted only a few hours. “Production and export will not be affected,”claimed Sadiq.

East & west reunion?

Head of NOC in the eastern region Naji Mughrabi expected Libyan production to jump to one million barrels per day from about 400,000 at the moment, regardless of difficulties in the field. Libya still has two National Oil Corporations, east and west. According to Mughrabi, a meeting bringing him together with his counterpart, the head of the NOC in Tripoli Mustafa Sonallah, will be held soon as a continuation of the merge process which began last May in the Austrian capital Vienna.

The dialogues are aimed at restoring Libyan production to its peak export figures, estimated at 1.8 million barrels per day in early 2013. Mughrabi says “there will be no obstacles to production” after the merge.