The NOC had only just lifted a force majeure on crude exports from Sharara on Sunday, as well as from the nearby El-Feel deposit the next day. At that time, Sharara was to start producing about 30,000 barrels a day, with a full ramp-up — to about 10 times that amount — taking three months.
Sustained production from Sharara would signal better times in Libya. The country’s energy industry has been dogged for almost a decade by power struggles and fighting following the ouster of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
For other oil producers, extra Libyan barrels would be less welcome, coming at a time when OPEC and allied producers are doing everything they can to keep supplies off the global market and boost prices. They agreed on Saturday to extend historic production cuts of almost 10 million barrels a day through July. Libya, with Africa’s largest oil reserves, is exempted from the restrictions due to its strife.
Brent crude was trading 1.1% lower at $40.74 a barrel as of 9:35 a.m. in Singapore. The international benchmark is down about 38% this year.
The NOC said earlier that El Feel would probably take two weeks to return to full capacity of around 100,000 barrels a day, due to damage caused by the shutdown there.
In mid-January, the NOC declared force majeure for exports of the Sharara grade of crude from Zawiya, a port near Tripoli. Force majeure is a legal status protecting a party from liability if it can’t fulfill a contract for reasons beyond its control. The measure was applied to several ports.
The chaos at the country’s oil facilities came amid a military offensive by Khalifa Haftar, a commander based in eastern Libya, to conquer Tripoli in the west and consolidate his control over the country.
His supporters shut down most crude production in January, and exports plunged from 1.2 million barrels a day to some 90,000. The collapse has cost the oil-dependent nation billions of dollars in lost revenue.
However, forces loyal to United Nations-recognized Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj have gained ground in the past month, thanks largely to military support from Turkey. They pushed Haftar out of his last stronghold in the west last week.
Haftar has accepted an Egyptian-sponsored cease-fire, though al-Sarraj’s administration said government forces would try to retake the cities of Sirte and Jufra before entering political negotiations to end the war. Regaining Sirte would put them close to the so-called oil crescent, the area containing most of Libya’s oil reserves.
Haftar’s Libyan National Army has so far stymied the forces of al-Sarraj’s Government of National Accord near Sirte.