(Adds comments from interview with oil minister)
By Julia Payne and Lin Noueihed
TRIPOLI/LONDON, April 16 Libya's oil minister
said on Wednesday there was no clear timetable for the
resumption of steady oil output as an end to the stand-off with
rebels could still falter and the 9-month port shutdown may have
damaged some facilities.
A tanker started loading crude at Libya's eastern port of
Hariga for the first time since July on Wednesday - the first
positive signal of an end to the four-port blockade by an
eastern federalist group led by Ibrahim al-Jathran.
But Tripoli still faces many hurdles to get the bulk of its
oil back online. Negotiations to free the country's largest oil
terminals are still on-going and a second port that was due to
re-open after the agreement last week is still under Jathran's
"Zueitina (port) is not ready yet ... because we have still
not received a release notice from the Petroleum Facilities
Guard. We're expecting this soon ... it has already been almost
two weeks since the agreement," Oil Minister Omar Shakmak told
Reuters in an interview.
"We will work after we receive a declaration and start with
an assessment and then we can remove the force majeure as we did
Oil output was currently around 200,000 barrels per day,
with exports accounting for about 70 percent of the volume,
Shakmak said, while the western oilfields, El Sharara and El
Feel, were still closed by other protesters.
"During at least say the next 4-5 weeks, you can't consider
the new volume as the average of exports. The quantities will be
part of the crude in storage tanks," he said.
As for output, Shakmak said it was difficult to predict how
quickly the fields would return to normal as there could easily
be more disruption as well as damage due to the long shutdown.
"From a technical point of view, there could be some damage.
It's not clear yet. A technical team will have to do an
assessment," he said.
Prior to the port blockade, the government had already
conceded to demands from other eastern activists such as to move
the NOC headquarters to Benghazi.
The plan is still in place, said Shakmak, but only in its
initial stages and a building still needed to be constructed.
FIRST TANKER ARRIVES
The tanker Aegean Dignity arrived at Hariga on Tuesday and
more tankers were on the way, according to National Oil Corp.
and shipping sources.
"The ship is loading at Hariga. It will load about 900,000
to 1 million barrels," a senior NOC official said.
NOC lifted force majeure on Hariga at the end of last week
after a federalist group led by Ibrahim al-Jathran agreed to
re-open two eastern ports.
The Petroleum Facilities Guard have not been able to take
control of Zueitina yet, the head of the PFG said, as the
government's negotiating committee had not given them an
official go-ahead. The reason for the delay was not clear.
Jathran's forces are still blocking Libya's largest
terminals, Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, pending a negotiation over
the division of the country's oil revenues.
Various federalist groups and local tribal leaders would
like a portion allocated specifically for the eastern region,
historically called Cyrenaica.
From 1 January 2013 to 30 November 2013, NOC exported 248.6
million barrels of crude oil, or 71 percent of its total oil
production, it said in a statement on its website.
About 59.7 million barrels, or about 17 percent of its
output, were exported while 43.5 million barrels, or 12 percent
of total output, went to the country's refineries.
On average, Libya produced 1.05 million barrels of crude oil
a day during the 11-month period.
(Additional reporting by Feras Bosalum in Tripoli, Editing by
Anthony Barker, Jason Neely and David Evans)