BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Key Libyan oil and oil product terminals to the east of the capital are in the hands of rebels who have seized control from leader Muammar Gaddafi, said residents of Benghazi who are in touch with people in region.
The residents told Reuters Thursday the oil and product terminals at Ras Lanuf and Marsa El Brega were being protected.
Soliman Karim, a resident involved with helping administer the eastern city of Benghazi, said exports, a vital source of income for OPEC-member Libya, were continuing. A second resident suggested flows might have been affected.
The information could not immediately be confirmed from those operating the terminals.
“Regarding Ras Lanuf, a large port for exporting oil, and el Brega, and the gas pipelines from the desert to the ports ... the (anti-Gaddafi) revolutionaries have taken control of them,” said Karim, a 65-year-old lawyer involved in committees set up to run Benghazi that is now outside Gaddafi’s rule, said.
“Exports are going on as usual, the same amount as have been agreed before,” he said, adding that his sources were people in the area where the rebels are in charge.
“The revolutionaries are protecting these areas because they are vital areas. We don’t want them sabotaged and we don’t want them to stop exporting oil,” Karim added.
Another resident of Benghazi, who was only identified as Tawfik, also said Ras Lanuf and Marsa el Brega were no longer in the hands of Gaddafi’s forces. But he suggested there may have been some impact on flows.
The telephone line to Tawfik was cut before more details could be obtained.
Unrest in the world’s 12th-biggest exporter has cut at least 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) from Libya’s 1.6 million bpd output, according to Reuters calculations.
Paolo Scaroni, chief executive of Italian oil major Eni said Libyan output had fallen much more dramatically, estimating it was putting 1.2 million barrels per day less into the market.
Fighting between Gaddafi loyalists and rebels opposed to his rule has broken out in towns much closer to the capital Tripoli.
Swathes of Libya, a producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), to the east of Tripoli are now under rebel supervision including Benghazi, a city that lies to the north of Libya’s main hydrocarbon region.
Karim said Gaddafi might be seeking to disrupt the oil industry.
“Yesterday the regime tried to blow up the gas and oil pipeline but one of the ‘free pilots’ ejected and left the plane to crash in the desert,” Karim said, suggesting the military might not be cooperating with orders.
The Ras Lanuf oil terminal is located in the Gulf of Sirte, on the Mediterranean coast about 600 km (375 miles) east of Tripoli and loads oil and petrochemical products. The offshore oil export terminal consists of two berths.
Marsa El Brega, located south of Benghazi, is also in the Gulf of Sirte. It is used for crude oil and petrochemical products.
Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz in Benghazi and Sherine El Madany in Cairo; writing by Edmund Blair; editing by Keiron Henderson