By Libya Herald reporters.
Tripoli/Tunis, 20 March 2017:
National Oil Corporation chief Mustafa Sanalla remains confident that the organisation will resume full control of the eastern oil terminals in the Oil Crescent despite messages to the contrary from the House of Representatives and the rival NOC in Beida.
After the Libyan National Army last September ousted Ibrahim Jadhran’s Petroleum Facilities Guard from Zuetina, Brega, Ras Lanuf and Sidra, control of the terminals, along with that of Tobruk which had always stayed operational, were passed back to NOC in Tripoli.
However, the brief capture of Ras Lanuf and Sidra by the Benghazi Defence Brigades appears to have changed the mood in the east. Although Presidency Council chief Faiez Serraj denied that his government in Tripoli had authorised the BDB attack, his defence minister Mahdi Al-Barghathi had said he was sending 600 troops to reinforce the BDB while PC-appointed chief of the PFG Idris Bukhamada had also moved his men to protect the terminals.
Nevertheless, Sanalla has told Reuters that he had no reason to believe that Tripoli NOC would not regain control of the two oil ports. “We have been coordinating our assessment of the facilities with them,” he told the news agency, “We have no reason to believe control of the ports will not be handed back to NOC.”
It is understood the the two export terminals suffered no serious damage in the latest fighting despite BDB claims the LNA warplanes had deliberately targeted the oil facilities. It appears that the BDB did not put any men into the terminals themselves.
Sanalla said that it had been decided to resume operations following a technical assessment and a check by military engineers for unexploded ordinance. Workers were returning to the two ports and the Waha Oil Company had resumed pumping to Sidra on Saturday. It had begun sending 25,000 b/d. Before the BDB attack the flow had been 75,000 b/d.
Bloomberg quoted the coordinator of NOC’s Oil Crescent emergency committee, Mustafa El-Zegheid, that at least 45 workers and engineers had returned to Ras Lanuf and 35 more to Sidra.
Before the attack Libya production had hovered around 700,000 b/d but is currently some 611,000 b/d. Sanalla said that he hoped to bring output up to 800,000 b/d by the end of next month.
On Saturday, Sanalla hosted China’s Libyan ambassador Li Zhiguo and officials from Beijing’s state-owned UNIPEC oil trading company. Their discussions included oil contracts and the return of Chinese engineers who had quit in 2014 as security collapsed.
The NOC also reported that Sanalla had been invited to make an official visit to China with the idea of developing oil industry links with Libya.