BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Libyan rebel officials are in contact with top oil companies that operate in the north African country but no new contracts are being drawn up, a source in the rebel leadership said.
Information and pricing agency Platts reported this week that the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) was in preliminary talks with Italy over a possible renegotiation of a production-sharing deal for Libya’s Bouri offshore field.
It said the talks might result in the rebels taking charge of the stake in the field owned by Libya’s state National Oil Corporation, which operates Bouri in association with Italy’s Eni.
“We are having talks with top companies that operate in Libya, but we are not making new contracts,” the source in the Benghazi-based national council told Reuters.
Officials in the rebel leadership have played down the likelihood that they will tear up Libya’s revenue sharing agreements with foreign oil majors, saying they will respect contracts signed by NOC.
Abdeljalil Mayouf, information manager at Arab Gulf Oil Company (Agoco), said he was not aware of any re-negotiation of deals between Tripoli-based NOC, which remains under the control of leader Muammar Gaddafi’s government, and foreign oil firms.
After throwing off Gaddafi’s control in most of east Libya in February, the rebels named officials to take charge of energy policy while they try to topple Gaddafi in the west.
The rebels are in dire need of oil export revenues to pay state salaries and buy weapons and food and sold their first tanker full of crude to U.S. refiner Tesoro in April.
But hydrocarbon production and exports have ground largely to a halt across the country due to an embargo on firms linked to Gaddafi’s government and threats to the security of oilfields and pipelines in the east.
The rebel finance minister said on Sunday he did not expect oil production in the rebel-held east to restart in the near future until security was restored.
Libya was producing around 1.6 million barrels per day of oil and exporting some 1.3 million bpd before the unrest.
Eni, the biggest foreign oil company in Libya, is trying to find a way to make exporting oil from Libya work without running afoul of sanctions, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters in Italy.
Reporting by Sherine El Madany in Benghazi; Additional reporting by Deepa Babington in Rome; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer and Anthony Barker