By Aidan Lewis
TRIPOLI, Feb 22 – Libya’s oil facilities are likely to suffer further attacks unless a United Nations-backed unity government is approved, the head of the National Oil Corporation (NOC) told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
Mustafa Sanalla also said suspected Daesh militants had staged their latest attack against Libya’s oil infrastructure last Thursday or Friday, setting fire to one production tank and damaging another at the Fida oil field.
Fida lies south-west of the oil terminals of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, where militants launched repeated assaults and inflicted major damage last month.
“If there is no new government I think the situation will get worse. I believe there will be more attacks on the oil facilities,” Sanalla said.
Libya has been mired in conflict following an uprising that toppled veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi five years ago. Two rival governments, backed by loose alliances of armed groups, are now vying for power and a share of the OPEC member’s oil wealth.
Daesh militants have taken advantage of the security vacuum to establish a foothold in Libya, seizing Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte and launching attacks in several other cities.
A unity government is trying to win approval from Libya’s internationally recognised parliament in eastern Libya, known as the House of Representatives (HOR). But the government remains plagued by divisions and has faced opposition from hardliners on both sides of Libya’s political divide.
“We are urging the HOR to approve this government to put an end to these troubles we have regarding security in the oil industry,” Sanalla said.
UNIFIED SECURITY FORCE
Total current production generally stands at 360,000-370,000 barrels per day, Sanalla said, though sometimes production drops to around 300,000 bpd because of technical problems.
That is less than a quarter of the 1.6 million bpd that Libya was producing before the 2011 uprising. About 100,000 barrels per day are refined locally for domestic consumption, with the rest exported.
Sanalla said the NOC in Tripoli faced a “daily battle” to prevent authorities in eastern Libya from selling oil through parallel structures.
But Sanalla said he was “optimistic” that Libya’s total production could recover quickly under a unity government, with an additional 400,000 bpd or more coming on stream from fields at El Sharara and El Feel in south-western Libya.
Sanalla said a unity government should set up a unified security force to protect facilities. This could incorporate the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), a largely independent brigade that controls the area around Ras Lanuf and Es Sider, he added.
The PFG fought militants at Es Sider and Ras Lanuf last month, but Sanalla said their defences were weak and that 20 of the 32 oil storage tanks at the terminals had been destroyed or badly damaged. Repairing those installations will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, he said.