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Libya Sees Pre-War Oil Production in Summer

Source: Reuters 2/7/2012, Location: Africa

Libya anticipates a return to pre-war oil output of 1.6 million barrels per day (bpd) in June or July this year, Deputy Oil Minister Omar Shakmak said. Oil companies were currently producing at between 60 and 90 percent of their normal output, he told Reuters in an interview.

"In general, if you look at the oil companies, they are all between 60 and 90 percent of the normal production for each company," Shakmak said. Libya is currently producing 1.3 million bpd, he added, after the civil war which toppled leader Muammar Gaddafi brought flows to a standstill.

When asked if pre-war output could be achieved before the summer, Shakmak said: "Yes, if you consider the progress in production which has been achieved now, maybe that will be before. But if it is by June-July, we are quite satisfied." Libya exported 32.2 million barrels of crude in January, state oil company NOC said on Tuesday.

Shakmak said a draft proposal looking to split the running of Libya's oil industry between oil production and exploration, or upstream, from oil refining or downstream activities was being looked at but it was unlikely any such change would happen under the current transitional government. "That's one of the proposals we are thinking of as a strategy, it is not in stage of activity," he said.

"But I'm not expecting that will be done during this transitional period of government because most of the major changes should be done by the elected government - all the Libyan people should be involved." A transitional government appointed in November is leading the North African country to elections in June.

Shakmak said some of the remaining challenges included dealing with complaints by workers at oil services companies over employment terms. "We need to solve these problems because they are serving the production companies," he said. Officials have spoken of plans to train and unite thousands of former rebel fighters under an umbrella oilfield and installation guard. Until now, groups of fighters have stood guard at different fields in the absence of a national army. Shakmak said the plans were for a force of around 9,000.

"The plan is to give a chance to the people who have taken care of the oilfields during the war against the Gaddafi regime," he said. When asked when Libya's largest refinery Ras Lanuf would resume operation, he said: "I hope by the end of this quarter, this is the plan." Ras Lanuf can process up to 220,000 bpd and accounts for well over half of the country's total oil refining capacity. It was halted during the uprising and the reopening date has consistently been pushed back.

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