Diplomat: Libya’s rebel-held oil facilities ?largely undamaged’

By Eric Watkins
With Libya’s oil infrastructure thought to be largely undamaged in rebel-held areas of the country, a British diplomat said that exports of oil could resume within 3-4 weeks following the fall of the embattled leader leader Moammar Gadhafi.

"We don't think the oil infrastructure has been particularly badly damaged physically,” said a British diplomat. “The current estimate is that in the east they can start pumping within three or four weeks.”

The statement followed other reports that have emerged in recent weeks, with some saying that output from Libya could reach 355,000 b/d from rebel-held areas and others saying it would be marginal and not up to full capacity until 2015.

A report by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said that Libya’s oil exports could rise by as much as 355,000 b/d from areas held by rebel forces and up to 585,000 b/d if Gadhafi is removed from power and production resumes from western fields currently held by his government.

Earlier, however, the International Energy Agency said that the North African country’s oil production faces a “long haul” to make a full recovery in the wake of the civil war gripping the land and that it will not return to full capacity until 2015.

The British diplomat’s remarks came as word emerged of a team of officials from the US, UK, Italy, Turkey, Denmark and other nations which has spent several weeks in eastern Libya discussing scenarios with opposition leaders.

"We are planning carefully and comprehensively for the days, weeks and months after Gadhafi has gone," said the diplomat. The plans, due for completion next week, include a proposed timetable for resuming oil production in areas of the country now held by forces opposed to Gadhafi.

Rebels have held the eastern part of Libya since the outbreak of hostilities in February, and they sold their first tanker full of crude to US refiner Tesoro in April.

Following the sale to Tesoro, the rebels scaled back their plans to export more oil after rocket attacks by Gadhafi’s forces seriously damaged a pumping station and production facilities at southeast Messla oil field on Apr. 4.

Another attack hit a pumping station halfway along the 510 km pipeline from Messla to Tobruk port, killing eight rebels serving as guards (OGJ Online, May 17, 2011).

Rebel Oil and Finance Minister Ali Tarhouni, without specifying a timeline, has since said that the opposition National Transitional Council hoped to “soon” resume oil production of as much as 100,000 b/d (OGJ Online, June 9, 2011).

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com
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