Haftar to Allow Limited Libya Oil Exports to Ease Power Gap

Libya could export oil again, but only temporarily.

Eastern commander Khalifa Haftar will allow ports to restart operations in order to dispose of stored fuel and gas, Naji al-Maghrabi, head of an oil-facilities guard linked to Haftar’s Libyan National Army, said late Tuesday in a televised statement. This will help to alleviate electricity shortages in the east of the country by freeing up fuel for the plants, he said.

“The instructions were to allow for the emptying of tanks holding crude and condensate stored at the oil ports to be loaded and exported,” Haftar’s Libyan National Army spokesman, Ahmed al-Mismari, said in a video post on his facebook page on Wednesday. “The decision taken yesterday doesn’t mean the reopening of fields or the resumption of exports.”

Officials at the state-run National Oil Corp., which has imposed force majeure on most of Libya’s crude shipments, weren’t immediately available for comment. The NOC, based in the capital Tripoli, must approve any exports.

Libya, which holds Africa’s largest crude reserves, produced 1.2 million barrels a day last year. Output plummeted to about 90,000 barrels a day after supporters of Haftar, who is trying to unseat the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli, halted operations at fields and ports under his control in January.

Tuesday’s orders came after Haftar met with representatives from the NOC and Arabian Gulf Oil Co. The ports’ re-opening should “ease the suffering of citizens in all walks of life, to safeguard the infrastructure at production and export sites and maintain the existing oil facilities,” al-Maghrabi said.

The NOC last week warned of worsening blackouts in Libya’s east, the seat of Haftar’s power, where a seven-month blockade of oil and gas facilities has deprived electricity stations of fuel and caused power cuts of as long as 12 hours.

Haftar’s forces last month reiterated that the closures will end only when there’s agreement to distribute oil revenues in a way they consider fairer. The blockade has cost the North African nation at least $8 billion.

Libya split into rival factions and governments in the wake of the 2011 conflict that overthrew Muammar al-Qaddafi. An ensuing civil war has drawn in countries including Turkey, Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. Oil facilities have been at the heart of the conflict, with groups forcing closures to press political or economic demands.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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