(Updates with comments from firms, Russia)
By Svetlana Kovalyova and Emma Farge
MILAN/LONDON Aug 22 Italian oil company Eni led
the charge back into Libya on Monday as rebels hailing the end
of Muammar Gaddafi's rule warned Russian and Chinese firms that
they may lose out on lucrative oil contracts for failing to
support the rebellion.
Gaddafi's fall will reopen the doors to Africa's largest oil
reserves and give new players such as Qatar's national oil
company and trading house Vitol the chance to compete with
established European and U.S. oil majors.
"We don't have a problem with Western countries like the
Italians, French and UK companies. But we may have some
political issues with Russia, China and Brazil," Abdeljalil
Mayouf, information manager at Libyan rebel oil firm AGOCO, told
The comment signals a potential setback for those countries
which opposed tough sanctions on Gaddafi or pressed for more
talks and would leave European and U.S. companies to capture
billions of dollars worth of oil exploration and construction
contracts in the OPEC member nation.
Shares in Eni , top producer in pre-war Libya,
gained as much as 7 percent, as its chairman Giuseppe Recchi
said Libyan oil and gas flows could restart before winter. Brent
oil futures LCOc1 fell just over a dollar a barrel on the
anticipated resumption of Libyan exports
Shares in Austria's OMV and France's Total
also rose by 3-5 percent and U.S. oil and oil services
firms with operations in Libya followed the trend.
Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said staff from Eni
had arrived to look into a restart of oil facilities in the
"The facilities had been made by Italians, by (oilfield
services group) Saipem , and therefore it is clear that
Eni will play a No. 1 role in the future," Frattini told state
Before the war, Libya produced about 2 percent of global
oil output or 1.6 million barrels per day and has reserves to
sustain that level of production for 80 years.
A Reuters poll forecast it would take up to a year to
restore Libyan output to at least 1 million bpd and up to two
years to get back to pre-war levels.
"It will probably take weeks before we see exports again and
it (Libya) also needs to feed the refineries. But nonetheless we
need to add Libya back to OPEC spare capacity now," said analyst
Olivier Jakob from Petromatrix.
Libya's former top oil official Shokri Ghanem, who defected
from the government of Gaddafi in May, told Reuters some Libyan
oil output would restart in a few months but it would take up to
18 months to return to pre-war levels.
AGOCO said that it was technically ready to start oil output
in its two eastern fields, with capacity of 250,000 bpd.
"We have Libyan oil companies and can start anytime if
security is approved. We can start without the foreign
companies," said Mayouf.
He added that security forces hired from the former Libyan
army were already present at the fields and the firm was waiting
for their clearance to start production.
LOSERS AND WINNERS
About 75 Chinese companies operated in Libya before the war,
involving about 36,000 staff and 50 projects, according to
Russian companies, including oil firms Gazprom Neft
and Tatneft , also had projects worth
billions of dollars in Libya. Brazilian firms such as Petrobras
and construction company Odebrecht were also in
"We have lost Libya completely," Aram Shegunts, director
general of the Russia-Libya Business Council, told Reuters. "Our
companies will lose everything there because NATO will prevent
them from doing their business in Libya."
Apart from Italian officials, other European politicians and
oil companies were more reserved in comments on Libya.
"At the moment we are not holding any bilateral talks with
the (National) Transitional Council," OMV said.
Wintershall said restarting production could be done within
several weeks: "This of course depends on the state of the
export infrastructure as well as a stable security situation in
the country," it said.
Analysts and industry observers have said Eni and Total could
emerge as the big winners in post-war Libya due to their
countries' heavy support for the rebels.
Big support from Qatar as well as oil trader Vitol, neither
producers in Libya before the war, may also guarantee a chunk of
reserves and influence goes to new players.
"Qatar will be a big player. Vitol might be an important
one. Shell (RDSa.L) is also looking to boost its role," said a
Western risk consultant with knowledge of negotiations. Shell
and Vitol declined to comment.
Most global oil majors have taken a much more cautious
approach to events in Libya. BP , which did not have
production in Libya before the war, said it was planning to
return to explore but gave no timeframe.
U.S. companies such as Marathon , ConocoPhillips
, Hess , Occidental pulled out of Libya at
the start of the year and have had little direct involvement in
the events there since then.
"We have no intention of returning to Libya at the moment,
as we don't know what's going on," ConocoPhillips
spokesman John McLemore told Reuters. "We are not in contact
with the rebels or the Gaddafi people."
"We are abiding by the (United Nations) sanctions and if or
when they are lifted we will decide what to do."
(Additional reporting by Svetlana Kovalyova, Sarah Young, Gus
Trompiz, Mathilde Cru, Vladimir Soldatkin, Vera Eckert, Emma
Farge, Silvia Westall, Ernest Scheyder, Steve James, Writing by
Dmitry Zhdannikov, editing Richard Mably)