Libya needs more international partners to increase oil and gas production

An Eni executive has urged the government to make Libya “more open” for potential suppliers and partners

The Mellitah Oil and Gas complex in near Libya. The National Oil Corporation plans to increase output to two million barrels per day in the next three to five years. Reuters
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Opec producer Libya needs to bring in more international partners to increase oil and gas production over the next few years, energy executives and officials said.

The National Oil Corporation (NOC), Libya’s state oil company, plans to increase output to two million barrels per day in the next three to five years, from about 1.2 million bpd currently.

The country, which has the largest crude reserves in Africa, is also preparing to issue bids for exploration areas by the end of 2024.

“We still have fields yet to be explored, including those in the Mediterranean and central regions, where new oil and gasfields will be discovered,” Mohamed Oun, Libya’s Oil Minister told the Libya Energy & Economic Summit on Saturday.

Citing Opec data, Mr Oun said that demand for fossil fuels would continue to grow over the next few decades.

The oil producers' group expects crude demand to rise to 116 million bpd by 2045 from 102 million bpd currently.

Libya has emerged as an important supplier of natural gas to Europe after Russian exports were cut following its invasion of Ukraine.

Luca Vignati, director of upstream at Eni, said he wanted Libya to avoid sharing the fate of many countries that ceased exploring for new oil and gas amid energy transition efforts, only to end up becoming fossil fuel importers.

“That’s the first red line that we wish Libya never crosses and we are trying to make investments … in order to avoid this,” he said.

Mr Vignati also urged the government to make Libya “more open” for potential suppliers and partners.

Last year, Eni, BP and Algerian energy company Sonatrach announced the resumption of their operations in the North African country after a 10-year absence.

In January 2023, Eni and NOC signed an $8 billion gas production deal, which could result in a production of up to 760 million cubic feet of gas.

However, the agreement has been opposed by several political factions as well as the Ministry of Oil and Gas.

Spain’s Repsol is set to begin exploratory drilling in Libya's Murzuq Basin in April 2024.

“We are bringing back our people to start exploring again … Libya is one of the first places in the world where we have bet to continue exploring,” said Francisco Gea, Repsol's general director of exploration and production.

“Libya has [a] big responsibility to continue providing resources for the future,” Mr Gea said.

The country has had little peace since the 2011 Nato-backed uprising against Muammar Qaddafi and it split in 2014 between warring eastern and western factions. Major fighting stopped after a ceasefire in 2020.

Last week, the NOC declared force majeure at the Sharara oilfield, the country’s largest, after its shutdown by protesters.

The closure resulted in the suspension of crude oil supplies from the field to the Zawiya terminal.

The oilfield in southern Libya can produce up to 300,000 bpd, representing about a fourth of the country’s output of 1.2 million bpd.

The Libyan government is working with the NOC to negotiate with the protesters and resume production, Mr Oun told reporters, without revealing a time frame.

Meanwhile, Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, Prime Minister of Libya's Tripoli-based government, said during his keynote speech at the forum that they have sought to create programmes to revive the country’s economy.

He stated that government support constituted a “fundamental and crucial step” as they have implemented a comprehensive plan for the oil and gas sector, aiming to address all issues and remove obstacles facing the industry.

The hydrocarbons sector accounts for about 95 per cent of Libya’s exports and generates nearly 95 per cent of government revenue.

The country's real gross domestic product is projected to rise by 12.5 per cent in 2023, after contracting by 9.6 per cent in 2022, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Updated: January 15, 2024, 6:06 AM