Libya’s NOC withholding Total’s share of Waha crude as dispute drags on

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Libya’s National Oil Corp (NOC) is withholding Total’s share of crude from the Waha concession as a dispute drags on over the French oil major’s purchase of Marathon’s stake in the concession two months ago, Libyan oil and industry sources said.

Total closed a $450 million deal to buy Marathon Oil’s 16.33 percent stake in Waha in March, but the deal drew criticism in Libya and the NOC is currently examining whether to intervene in one way or another.

Total, which has already paid Marathon for the stake, says it informed the Libyan authorities about the deal in advance and they raised no objections at the time.

However, Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne has also said the two sides are still in talks on some fiscal issues surrounding the deal.

According to two Libyan oil sources and an industry source with knowledge of the matter, all speaking on condition of anonymity, Total has so far not received any of its share of crude cargoes from Waha.

Total has also not been compensated for the cargoes, one of the sources said.

Total declined to comment. The NOC was not immediately available for comment.

According to a loading program for Es Sider, the port used for Waha exports, of the fourteen 600,000 or 1 million barrel cargoes planned for May, NOC has 10 of them. ConocoPhillips, which has a 16.33 percent stake in Waha, has two cargoes, and Hess, with an 8.16 percent stake, has another two.

Cargoes for the partners in the concession can vary from month to month, with a special department in the NOC deciding on the matter, one of the Libyan oil sources said.

In January, Marathon was allocated two 600,000 barrel cargoes, worth more than $88 million at current prices.

But from the start of this year, Marathon’s cargoes have been sold on to oil trader Vitol via NOC, the Libyan oil source and trading sources said. Vitol’s deal lasts until at least August, the Libyan source said.

It is not clear whether the change in hands of the Waha concession from Marathon to Total will affect Vitol’s contract.

Vitol declined to comment.

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