Friday, August 07, 2020

Libya restarts a second oil field even as OPEC+ extends cuts

Jun 08. 2020
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By Syndication The Washington Post, Bloomberg · Salma El Wardany 

Libya took another step toward reviving its moribund oil industry by restarting production at a second important field after a five-month halt.

Pumping began on Sunday at the El-Feel deposit, which had suspended operations due to the North African country's civil war. El-Feel is resuming just a day after oil started flowing again from Libya's largest deposit, Sharara.

Any fresh barrels from these fields could complicate efforts by the OPEC+ producer alliance to limit global supply and push crude prices higher. The group agreed on Saturday to extend historic production cuts of 9.6 million barrels a day through July. Libya, with Africa's largest oil reserves, is exempted from the cuts due to the country's strife.

The two southwestern fields previously pumped a combined 400,000 barrels a day, though they could take months to return to that level of output, if they reach it at all.

"This is a situation we'll have to look at in more detail once recovery actually starts," Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said Monday at a press briefing held by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies.

Novak's Saudi counterpart, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, said at the same briefing that it would be "unfair and unproductive" at this early stage to engage with Libya about its rising output. Libya is "a very committed member of OPEC+," and "we wish them well," Prince Abdulaziz said.

Operations are gradually resuming at El-Feel, which is operated by a joint venture between Italy's Eni SpA and the state-run National Oil Corp., according to a person with knowledge of the situation who asked not to be identified. The NOC wasn't immediately available for comment.

Output at the fields halted in January amid a military offensive by forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar, a commander based in eastern Libya. His fighters shut down most of the country's crude production, which plunged from 1.2 million barrels a day to some 90,000. The collapse has cost the oil-dependent nation billions of dollars in lost revenue.

The resumption of production at the two fields follows setbacks for Haftar in recent weeks. His forces have lost strongholds in western Libya after battling for more than a year to seize the capital, Tripoli, from the United Nations-backed government of Fayez al-Sarraj.

Haftar has accepted an Egyptian-sponsored cease-fire, though Sarraj's administration said Sunday that government forces would continue their campaign to retake two key cities before any political negotiations to end the war.

The NOC on Sunday said production at Sharara will resume at an initial 30,000 barrels a day and will take three months to return to full capacity, due to damage caused by the shutdown. However, a return to full production at either field probably won't happen without a truce between Haftar's Libyan National Army and Sarraj's Government of National Accord.

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