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Libya lifts force majeure on oil, gas exploration; urges companies to resume upstream work


Security has improved paving the way for more activity, says NOC

OPEC member wants IOCs like BP, Shell, TotalEnergies, Eni to play bigger role

NOC says oil output averaged 1.262 million b/d as of Dec. 6

  • Author
  • Dania Saadi    Eklavya Gupte
  • Editor
  • Debiprasad Nayak
  • Commodity
  • Natural Gas Oil

Libya's Government of National Unity has lifted the force majeure on oil and gas exploration activities in the North African country and called on international oil companies to resume their operations amid an improvement in security.

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The Tripoli-based GNU said in a Dec. 5 statement that it would provide the necessary support and ensure safety, while the state-owned National Oil Corp. also said IOCs with exploration and production agreements needed to restart exploration activities in the country.

"NOC welcomes them to resume their work in Libya and assures them of its readiness to provide all necessary support to resume their operations, as well as assisting them in facilitating the return, along with providing a safe working environment in cooperation with the civil and military authorities of the Libyan state," NOC said separately in a Dec. 5 statement.

IOC focus

A few international oil companies are beginning to consider resuming exploration in OPEC member Libya, which holds the largest oil and gas reserves in Africa. But progress has been slow due to the fluid security situation.

Russian oil company Tatneft recently resumed upstream work in the Ghadames Basin. NOC is now hoping to court more international oil companies like BP, Eni, TotalEnergies, ConocoPhillips, OMV and Repsol to resume upstream work in the country.

Libya is desperate to expand the presence of international oil companies as its recent production recovery has been stymied by a lack of funds and aging infrastructure.

On Nov. 1, NOC chairman Farhat Bengdara said he was hopeful international energy companies BP and Eni were on the verge of resuming onshore and offshore drilling.

The state-owned company hopes to finalize a deal with Eni to develop offshore gas fields as it refocuses on boosting its gas production and tapping some 80 Tcf of proven reserves.

The company is also in discussions with BP and TotalEnergies about swapping gas with renewables, whereby they would invest in producing electricity for Libya in return for gas.

Libya's production has steadily increased since the summer when political fighting worsened with continued bickering between the UN-backed GNU and the eastern authorities -- the Government of National Stability and the self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Khalifa Haftar.

Output recovery

Libya's oil production has recovered sharply in recent months, according to NOC, taking production close to a one-year high as issues with oil blockades and production shutdowns are resolved.

NOC said crude and condensate output were currently averaging 1.211 million b/d and 51,000 b/d respectively.

Libyan crude production rose to a 15-month high of 1.18 million b/d in October, up 20,000 b/d from September, as a deal which ended an oil blockade in July remained in place, according to the latest Platts survey by S&P Global Commodity Insights.

Analysts at S&P Global expect production to hold at 1.1 million b/d through the year-end, given Haftar's July 20 agreement with former rival Dbeibah to end blockades.

"Although it may be a matter of time before General Khalifa Haftar loses patience and decides to shut exports to gain leverage (as in 2020 and mid-2022)," the analysts said in a recent note.

Output has more than doubled since June when blockades and production shutdowns beset the OPEC member's oil sector.

Libya's crude recovery began after Haftar and interim prime minister Abdula Hamid Dbeibah agreed on a deal to end a longstanding oil blockade in mid-July.

But political tensions between rival factions persist, with threats of sporadic protests near oil infrastructure lingering.

A large part of Libya's aging infrastructure has been wrecked by civil war, militant and terrorist attacks, and general neglect over the past decade.

Libya has been wracked by political instability, with governments in the west and east vying for control of the country and its lifeblood oil industry. Key oil ports and production fields have seen their operations intermittently disrupted by civil unrest.

Libya exports mainly light sweet crude grades such as Brega, Es Sider and Sharara. Its main export markets are in Southern Europe and China.