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The Libyan National Army has taken control of three oil export terminals in the so-called Oil Crescent, wrestling them from the Petroleum Facilities Guard, which is affiliated with the UN-backed Government of National Accord.
The terminals are Es Sider, Ras Lanuf, and Zueitina— Es Sider and Ras Lanuf alone account for 700,000 bpd in export capacity, almost half of what Libya used to export before it plunged into a civil war in 2011.
The fight for the three ports started in August with an LNA attack on PFG forces in the Zueitina oil terminal. Control of the port was established earlier today, media reported, citing LNA sources. Now the LNA is moving on to take the fourth oil port on Libya’s Mediterranean coast, Brega. According to Bloomberg, the change of control of the ports will further aggravate the already difficult situation in Libya’s oil industry.
The country’s oil ports have been under the control of the Petroleum Facilities Guard—led by Ibrahim Jadhran—since 2013. The PFG, like the Libyan National Army, is an armed group, which is treated by the latter as an “outlaw militia.” The LNA, in turn, is also seen as a hostile entity by the PFG, which has benefited materially from its control over ports as well as oilfields. The LNA—led by General Khalifa Haftar—is affiliated with the Libyan Parliament, based in the east of the country.
The PFG’s modus operandi is to seize control of ports and oil fields with demands for financial rewards, as the restoration of law and order in the North African country remains a distant prospect. The possibility of hundreds of thousands of Libyan oil barrels re-entering international markets is equally distant.
According to the Tripoli Post, which backs the Libyan National Army, the change of control over the oil ports will allow the National Oil Corporation to restart exports, adding that these are planned to reach 900,000 bpd within the next six months.
The chances of this actually happening, however, are slim, as the clashes between opposing political groups continue. It’s all too likely that the LNA will treat the ports in the same way as the PFG – as a source of revenue and political influence – so the prospects of resumption in Libyan oil exports remains distant.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.