Libya sees oil production rising to prewar levels in 15 months

Libya can resume crude oil production within a matter of weeks and can return to prewar output within 15 months, according to the newly appointed chairman of state-owned National Oil Corp.

NOC Chairman Nouri Berouin said Libya was producing 1.6 million b/d before the outbreak of civil war in February. Berouin also said most of the country’s oil fields suffered no major damage and are in good condition but that minefields around the Brega export terminal could slow the resumption of normal operations.

Berouin said it is necessary to secure the fields and then to begin clearing the minefields. Increased output would require logistical support as well, most likely from the country’s foreign partners.

That view was largely supported by Ali Tarhouni, who holds the oil brief for the rebel National Transitional Council, now widely recognized internationally as Libya’s new government.

Tarhouni said NTC expects to rehabilitate a number of wells in the coming few days and that oil and gas exports would rise gradually, pending a full report from NOC concerning the state of the industry.

Tarhouni acknowledged that forces loyal to Libya’s deposed leader Moammar Gadhafi remain in the country, but he dismissed them as a spent force and said they do not represent a significant threat to industry.

NTC is fully up to the task of protecting Libya’s oil and gas fields, Tarhouni said, adding that the group has no interest, plans, or policy to invite any international forces to enhance security or protect the fields.

The remarks of Tarhouni and Berouin coincided with an announcement by the head of the Franco-Libyan chamber of commerce that representatives of Total SA will form part of a mission of French firms travelling to Libya to assess the situation next month.

Michek Casals, chamber president, said the group wants to understand how NTC is managing the crisis in Libya and what urgent measures it needs to restart the country’s oil industry.

In addition to Total, the mission is to include experts from engineering firm Alstom, defense group Eads, state defense and electronics group Thales, and telecom equipment-maker Alcatel Lucent, in addition to representatives of smaller companies working with hospitals and oil.

Meanwhile, European Union diplomats said sanctions imposed against several Libyan ports, oil companies, and more than a dozen other entities could be lifted as soon as Sept. 2.

The EU reached an agreement in principle on Aug. 31 to remove the six port authorities from its sanctions list as well as 22 other entities, including 3-4 oil companies, diplomats said.

EU governments will formally approve the decision on Sept. 1 and the move will come into force when it is published in the 27-nation bloc's Official Journal on Sept. 2.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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