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Power Grab In Libya Threatens Oil Industry

The Libyan oil plot jut thickened after the Libyan National Army said it had passed control of the country’s oil ports to a non-officially recognized National Oil Corporation affiliated with the eastern government of the country based in Benghazi.

The LNA—also affiliated with the Benghazi government, which is not recognized by the international community—recaptured the ports from a coalition of rival militia led by a commander from the Petroleum Facilities Guard, Ibrahim Jadhran, late last week after about two weeks of fighting.

Jadhran took an active part in the PFG blockade of the oil ports that lasted until 2016—a blockade that cost Libya billions in lost oil revenues. The LNA wrested control of the Oil Crescent from the PFG in 2016, but at the time it handed the facilities over to the official National Oil Corporation, which is based in Tripoli, works with the internationally recognized government, and is the sole entity that has the legal right to sell Libyan oil, according to its managers.

Now, a spokesman for the LNA has said that no tankers will be allowed to dock at the oil ports in the Oil Crescent without permission from the Benghazi-based NOC. The Tripoli-based NOC, the spokesman added, will no longer be allowed to handle the country’s oil. However, with the latter being the internationally recognized entity that deals with Libyan oil exports, chances are that more chaos is on the way for the troubled North African country’s oil industry. Related: WTI-Brent Spread Narrows On Canada Oil Crisis

The Tripoli-based NOC has been quick to warn that the LNA has no right to determine who gets to sell Libya’s oil and cautioned potential buyers about entering into contracts with the Benghazi-based NOC.

At the same time, the latest developments indicate a shift of power to the east as the LNA decides to play with the Benghazi-based NOC. The two NOCs a while ago reached an agreement to play together for the good of the Libyan people, but the agreement lasted only a short while before the old rivalry for the oil wealth returned.

Things may not be that bad, however. Libyan media report that the Tripoli-based, official NOC has been allowed by the LNA to bring back its personnel to the two terminals worst hit by the fighting—Ras Lanuf and Es Sider—to assess the damages.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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