Libya's crude oil exports will jump to almost 350,000 barrels per day in November, more than double the volume sold the previous month, sources at the National Oil Company (NOC) told Reuters in an interview.
The NOC plans to sell a total of up to 14 cargoes of oil from several fields, primarily in the east and at offshore sites which escaped the worst of the damage inflicted by the war and located in areas that were liberated soon after the uprising.
A further two cargoes were expected to be offered by Benghazi-based subsidiary Agoco, bringing the total to 16, the sources said. The eastern firm took charge of sales during the fighting to provide rebels with a crucial source of income after sanctions froze most of Libya's $170 billion worth of assets.
Libya's crude oil exports virtually ground to a halt during the war, with just two cargoes leaving the country's ports until September, when the first flows began trickling back into the market. Before the February uprising that toppled former leader Muammar Gaddafi and ultimately led to his capture and death just over a week ago, Libyan crude oil exports stood at 1.3 million bpd.
Agoco was due to hand over responsibility for sales in mid-November, the sources said. At least eight cargoes of crude and condensate have been sold since Agoco's fields began pumping oil again almost two months ago, and several grades have been offered.
Libya still has no plans to offer crude from Repsol's El-Sharara field however, as the first flows will be used to supply the country's largest online refinery at Zawiya. It can process around 120,000 bpd but has yet to return to full capacity. There was no timeframe in place for marketing oil from the site, which is located deep in the south west and among Libya's largest fields, the sources said.
Libya's largest refinery, which accounts for around two-thirds of the country's refining capacity, was expected online towards the end of November, the sources said. Ras Lanuf can process 220,000 bpd and the NOC chairman has previously said the plant would return to service by the end of the year, a forecast the NOC sources said was over-cautious.
The NOC's shipments will total around 600,000 barrels each, while Agoco was expected to sell its oil in larger cargoes of 1 million barrels, the sources said. More streams of crude would become available for export, in a further sign the industry is slowly returning to normality. The NOC planned to market crude from Total's Al Jurf, Eni's Abu Atiffel, Amna, Sirtica and Zueitina in November. Agoco would market cargoes of Sarir crude before handing control back to the NOC.
The rapid return of Libya's oil is still almost entirely owed to the efforts and sacrifices of local workers who have returned to fields that are still viewed as unsafe either due to the risk of attack by insurgents or maintenance issues. But it could be many months before they are joined by the foreigners that make up a key part of the country's skilled workforce, which could hamper efforts to speed up flows at sites already in operation and restart other fields.
The largest contractors working on Libya's oil fields say most foreign companies still have no timeframe in place for returning evacuated staff, and few have volunteered to return.
New obstacles are emerging as firms negotiate who will provide security for workers vulnerable to attacks in the desert and in cities overflowing with weapons. Foreign oil companies are keen to use their own security, but the interim government has said a special branch of the military will be trained up to protect the country's oil fields.
And for the time being, with or without security, they are unwilling to commit to sending employees back to a country that is already seen to be plunging into a cycle of tribal violence and retribution, potentially undermining the new leaders and sending Libya back into chaos.