Exports from Libya's key Es Sider crude oil terminal could resume as early as Thursday as workers and local authorities have reached an agreement to end a strike that has blocked operations for the last two weeks, the country’s deputy oil minister told Reuters late on Monday.
The North African OPEC member country is seeing the worst disruption to its oil industry since a civil war in 2011, due to worker protests and strikes that have hit most of its major installations.
“They decided to resume operations, [Es Sider] can be considered open,” Omar Shakmak said, adding that he expected the first cargo to be loaded around Aug. 15-16 as production must resume and a new schedule be drawn up.
“There is still no resumption at Ras Lanuf, but if Es Sider restarts maybe Ras Lanuf will follow,” he said.
Crude oil exports from Es Sider and Ras Lanuf have been halted since late July after armed guards, who normally keep the facilities secure, blocked operations in protest over pay among other grievances. The ports have a capacity of around 600,000 barrels per day, just under half the country’s export capacity of over 1.2 million bpd.
The port of Marsa Al Hariga was expected to remain closed for crude oil exports for the rest of the week but limited domestic movements were taking place, Shakmak said.
“A cargo of fuel oil was loaded yesterday for internal shipment,” he said. “The terminal is open only internally, I do not see crude shipments for this week.”
He said that there was “still no progress” at the Port of Zueitina, closed since around mid-July due to strikes.
The Arabian Gulf Oil Company (AGOCO) has reduced production to around 60,000 bpd mainly because of the port closures, he said.
The ports of Zawiya, Marsa al-Brega and Mellitah were operational and oil production had recovered to around 700,000 bpd, he added.
The price on Brent crude steadied under $109 per barrel on Tuesday after rising on supply concerns in Libya, as investors look to U.S. economic data due this week for cues on the timing of Federal Reserve stimulus cuts.
“The volatile geopolitical climate in (the Middle East) region is going to keep prices supported as we go out into the fourth-quarter,” said Carl Larry, president of the Houston-based consultancy Oil Outlooks and Opinions.
“But traders will also be cautious not to overreact to every headline because this uncertainty is the new norm for the region,” he added.
Upcoming maintenance work at Iraq's key southern export hub is expected to cut supplies by 500,000 bpd in September, lending further support to prices in the medium term.