Wintershall's Libya oil output still below pre-war levels

Fri Jun 7, 2013 5:24am EDT

* Libya output at 85,000 bpd vs pre-war 100,000 bpd

* Infrastructure problems, strikes still limit production

* Protests could continue to disrupt oil industry

By Victoria Klesty

OSLO, June 7 (Reuters) - BASF-owned oil company Wintershall hasn't been able to raise its Libyan oil production to pre-civil war levels because of lingering infrastructure problems, and protests could continue to disrupt the country's exports.

The firm now produces 85,000 barrels per day and this year aims to get production back to the 100,000 barrels per day it had before the war in 2011, Uwe Salge, Wintershall's general manager in Libya, told Reuters.

"The major limiting factor is that our exports are relying on infrastructures of other operators where we have already had some problems, like strikes," Salge said.

"Also there are certain oil field services which are not yet fully available in the country, but they are coming back."

Wintershall was the second largest foreign oil firm in Libya before leader Muammar Gaddafi was removed from power in 2011, after Italy's ENI. Before the unrest, Libya accounted for three-quarters of its total oil output.

Protests and attacks against Libyan oil installations are a regular feature with locals demanding jobs, and have disrupted operations. Production at the North African country's major El Feel oilfield was shut on May 29 as a precaution due to a protest at the site.

Wintershall's installations have been spared such attacks, Salge said, but added that the industry was likely to experience continued ruptures with temporary production shutdowns ahead.

"I think that these activities (protests) could continue for some time because the ideas and programmes that the government wants to implement are taking longer than expected, so people are getting impatient," he said.

"I don't see this as a long-term risk," Salge said, adding that the areas where Wintershall is based were "rather civil".

The company has helped build a new pipeline carrying crude oil to export port Ras Lanuf in northern Libya, and the pipe has been onstream since beginning of March, Salge said.

OIL FORCE GUARD

The hostage-taking crisis in January at the In Amenas gas plant in neighbouring Algeria has put security in the spotlight.

Libya has a 15,000-strong oil force guard, made up mainly of former rebel fighters. However, still lacking proper training, the men have at times fought amongst themselves.

Salge said that while the oil guard may not work efficiently everywhere, he generally thinks the concept is a good one.

"The discipline, from what I see, from the oil field guard is quite good," he said. (Editing by Mark Potter)

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.