Libya: rebels surge west again, pledge oil exports “within days”

Libyan rebels are reported March 28 to be advancing on Moammar Qaddafi’s heartland of Sirte after seizing the eastern coastal towns of Ras Lanuf, Brega, Uqayla and Bin Jawad. The rebels re-captured the ports of Ajdabiya and Brega on March 26. The rebels, on the verge of losing their eastern stronghold city of Benghazi before Allied air-strikes began on March 19, have turned the tide and pushed westwards towards Tripoli. (BBC News, Middle East Online, March 27)

A senior official of the Libyan rebel government in Benghazi on March 27 told reporters in Benghazi that Qatar has agreed to market crude oil produced from Libya’s eastern fields. “We contacted the oil company of Qatar and thankfully they agreed to take all the oil that we wish to export and market this oil for us,” said Ali Tarhouni, a rebel official in charge of economic, financial and oil matters. “Our next shipment will be in less than a week.”

State-owned Qatar Petroleum said it had no comment.

Libya produced about 1.6 million barrels of oil per day before the crisis, or almost 2% of world output. Most of the oil is in the east, but sanctions and the lack of a marketing operation have stopped the rebels selling it abroad. “We are producing about 100,000 to 130,000 barrels a day, we can easily up that to about 300,000 a day,” Tarhoni said.

Officials at eastern oil company Agoco have told Reuters the company was continuing to pump oil to the terminal in Tobruk in the far east of the country. Output at Agoco’s fields, including Nafoora, Sarir and Misla in the Sirte Basin, fell in recent weeks, and a slowing of shipments since early March led to a build-up of stocks at Tobruk. Agoco officials said they recognized the rebel government’s authority. Agoco officially remains under US sanctions, along with 13 other Libyan companies. (Reuters, March 28; Middle East Online, March 27)

See our last post on the Libyan crisis.

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