Libya's target of reaching pre-war oil output levels by the end of 2012 is feasible, the country's new oil minister, Abdulrahman Ben Yazza, told Reuters. The former head of a joint venture with Italy's Eni , Ben Yazza was appointed to the interim government last week and will have the task of restoring output and reshaping a sector weighed down by corruption and inefficiency under former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
"I think it (restoring pre-war output by end-2012) will be feasible. We'll work very hard to achieve that target date, and hopefully even sooner. We'll give it all of our effort to do it," Ben Yazza said in his first interview since his appointment.
Asked what Libya would tell the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) at its December 14 meeting, he said Libya was "back in business" and intended to produce its quota, and he was open to discussions about future OPEC output. As for a potential shake-up of the Libyan oil sector that could change the balance of power between the oil ministry and the National Oil Corporation (NOC), Ben Yazza said there would be "no earthquake."
Before Libya's February uprising, it pumped 1.6 million barrels per day (bpd), but civil war brought flows to a standstill, cutting off exports of around 1.3 million bpd of its light, easy to refine crude to the international market. Libyan oil output has climbed back to 840,000 bpd, the NOC said in a statement.
Ben Yazza said that he would be working on plans to increase production beyond pre-conflict levels, and that he expected to have those plans ready within a year. "The plans and thoughts are there to enhance production, increase the recovery factor from the reservoirs that we are producing," he said.
"And definitely there will be further studies to see the downstream area. Definitely there will be a lot of studies to evaluate all these issues and come up with a plan that can be executed." Ben Yazza said progress had been made in improving security at oilfields and energy infra-structure, essential to prevent attacks by insurgents. Good security is a condition for foreign operators to send back their expatriate staff.
"Effort has already been under way to secure the fields. There are negotiations and talks with the concerned ministries to secure this issue at a 100 percent."
"There is security now in the fields and the proof is the production... All effort is being made to collectively make sure that the fields are secure and all the service companies and foreign companies can resume their operations in the field." A member of Libya's interim government told Reuters in September it was drafting a proposal that would give more power to the oil ministry and shrink the responsibilities of the NOC to make it a purely commercial organisation.
This would be a change from the system under Gaddafi where the NOC handled both the daily operations of the oil sector and represented Libya on the world stage at OPEC meetings."This proposal will be reviewed thoroughly and we have to involve all the experts to study the pros and cons of this proposal," said Ben Yazza.
"So at the moment, it's not approved this proposal, we have to take our time to come up with the best because what we are doing now is setting the base for the future of the oil business. We will have to have lessons learnt from the past in order to have a better future working environment."