Libya's biggest foreign oil producer is back in action


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The Independent Online

The Italian energy giant Eni said yesterday that it had resumed oil production in Libya after months of interruption, tapping 15 wells and producing nearly 32,000 barrels per day. The French energy company Total restarted some production last week.

Eni's statement was the first from an oil company saying production had resumed since the civil war. Libya's economic future could hinge on the performance of its lucrative oil and gas sectors, whose production ground to a halt during this year's uprising against Muammar Gaddafi.

Libya sits atop Africa's largest proven reserves of conventional crude, and with a population of only six million, raked in $40bn (£26bn) last year from oil and gas exports. Still, experts say it could take a year or more to get Libya back to its pre-war production of 1.6 million barrels a day.

Eni's revived production operations have focused on 15 wells at the Abu-Attifel field about 185 miles south of the eastern city of Benghazi, and are being conducted by Mellitah Oil & Gas, a partnership between Eni and Libya's state-run National Oil Corp.

Eni said in a statement that other wells will be reactivated "in the coming days" to reach the "required volumes to fill the pipeline" between the Abu-Attifel field and the Zuetina port on the Mediterranean.

Meanwhile, Total said yesterday that it resumed production on 23 September in partnership with Libya's state-run oil company and a German company at an offshore well called Al Jurs. Production is slowly ramping up but will eventually be 40,000 barrels a day, according to Florent Segura, a Total spokesman.

The Abu-Attifel field was the first "giant" oil field discovered by Eni in the 1960s.

Before Libya's social uprising in mid-February morphed into a full-scale civil war, Eni was producing 273,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in Libya. It was the largest foreign producer in Libya before the civil war broke out, and its operations, mirroring Libya's oil sector in general, ground to a halt because of the fighting.

Paolo Scaroni, Eni's CEO, visited Tripoli earlier this month to lay the groundwork for relaunching gas exports to Italy via the Greenstream pipeline, which can carry roughly 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year. It has not been operational since late February.

Mr Scaroni has set an optimistic deadline of 15 October to restart the gas flow.

Libyan transitional government officials have said the new government would respect past contracts and not rush into any new deals. AP