Libya oil exports hit an 18-month low amid field closures

Libya oil exports hit an 18-month low amid field closures

Armed clashes, damaged storage tanks and political protests at key ports have hobbled Libya’s ability to export oil, cutting shipments to the lowest level since October 2020.

The North African country loaded 819,000 barrels a day last month, down from 979,000 barrels a day in March, according to tanker-tracking data monitored by Bloomberg. Fewer cargoes headed to the country’s biggest customers in Italy, Spain and China.

Political strife has escalated again in recent months though, with protests calling for Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh to quit engulfing major facilities, including oil fields and ports. Dbeibah is resisting demands from some lawmakers to resign after they declared former interior minister Fathi Bashagha as prime minister in February.

The state-owned National Oil Corporation (NOC) said Monday it is temporarily lifting a force majeure closure at the eastern port of Zueitina, after formally suspended loadings from that location in the middle of April.

The temporary measure will avoid an “environmental catastrophe” if the tanks aren’t emptied. Armed clashes damaged facilities at 29 sites, including oil storage tanks at the western port of Zawiya, the NOC said on April 23.

Giant oil fields such as Sharara and El Feel have also fallen victim to political demonstrations against the prime minister. Nationwide oil production fell to about 800,000 barrels a day from 1.3 million barrels a day within the space of just a few days in mid April, according to an oil official who asked not to be identified because the information is private.