Attack shuts Libyan oil ports, slashes production
BENGHAZI - Reuters
The major Libyan oil ports of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider were closed and evacuated on June 14 after armed brigades opposed to the powerful eastern commander Khalifa Haftar stormed them, causing a production loss of 240,000 barrels per day (bpd).
At least one storage tank at Ras Lanuf terminal was set alight following the early morning attack, an engineer told Reuters. Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) declared force majeure on loadings from both terminals. The clashes between forces loyal to Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) and rival armed groups continued throughout the day south of Ras Lanuf, where the LNA was targeting its opponents with air strikes, local sources said.
Military sources said the LNA had withdrawn from both ports. The LNA took control of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf along with other oil ports in Libya’s oil crescent in 2016, allowing them to reopen after a long blockade and significantly lifting Libya’s oil production.
More than half the storage tanks at both terminals were badly damaged in previous fighting and have yet to be repaired, though there have been regular loadings from Es Sider.
Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) said it had evacuated all staff from the two terminals “as a precautionary measure.”
The immediate production loss was around 240,000 bpd and the entry of a tanker due at Es Sider on June 14 was postponed, it said.
NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said the output loss was expected to rise to 400,000 bpd if the shutdown continued, calling it a “national disaster” for oil-dependent Libya. A military source said the three-pronged attack was launched by the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB), a group that has previously tried to take the oil crescent and advance on Benghazi, which has been fully controlled by Haftar since late last year.
The NOC blamed Ibrahim Jathran, who headed an armed group that blockaded oil crescent terminals for three years before being forced out by the LNA, and who appeared in a video posted on social media on June 14, announcing the start of a campaign.