Protest-Hit Libyan Oil Terminals Reopen

Source: Reuters 7/8/2012, Location: Africa

Three major oil exporting terminals in eastern Libya shut down by political protests have restarted, and production blocked by the move has resumed, the chairman of Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) said.

Local militia on Thursday enforced a 48-hour stoppage to protest against Saturday's election of a national assembly they complain does not adequately represent Libya's eastern region, slated to get 60 of the 200 seats.

The election, the first in a generation in the North African country, went ahead despite violent protests on the day. The stoppages at El-Sider, Ras Lanuf and Brega shut half of Libya's oil exporting capacity. Production of close to 1.6 million barrels a day (bpd) was also cut by 300,000 bpd as a result of blockages at the terminals.

"Everything is back to normal. Ships are loading and, from last night, some fields have restarted production," NOC Chairman Nuri Berruien told Reuters by telephone. "Hopefully within 24 hours everything will be back to normal levels."

The 48-hour shutdown prevented oil tankers that were ready to sail from leaving ports on Friday, prompting local agents to warn oil companies that vessels scheduled to load crude over the weekend might have to drop anchor until terminals were reopened.

"This problem is over All of the fields that are feeding the terminals are on, some of them from last night, some of them today," Berruien said. Ships had entered the loading area at El-Sider and were ready to start loading, he added.

Libya's east, source of most of the country's oil, was starved of cash during Gaddafi's 42-year rule, and calls for federal rule have been fuelled by long-standing complaints it has been deprived of its fair share of wealth.

A self-proclaimed autonomous council for the oil-rich province called on people in the region to boycott the election, saying it would not give adequate representation to the east. The anti-election group includes some tribes and disgruntled former rebel forces, analysts have said.

Libya has Africa's largest proven oil reserves. The three ports that closed have a combined export capacity of around 690,000 bpd. Production has recovered swiftly after grinding to a near halt during last year's uprising against ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi. Exports have exceeded pre-war rates because Libya's largest refinery is still offline, freeing up oil for export.

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