LONDON Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) expects crude exports to rise to 1.345 million barrels per day (bpd) by the fourth quarter of 2012, indicating the OPEC member's oil is returning to the international market faster than expected.
The NOC made the forecast in a table entitled "Estimated Daily Production," which was sent to NOC clients and seen by Reuters on Monday.
The document showed that 813,000 bpd was expected to be available by next month, with the highest output coming from the Sarir and Amna grades. Three oil industry sources confirmed they had received the NOC document.
It comes ahead of negotiations in the next few weeks between the NOC and potential buyers of Libya's 2012 crude oil exports. Competition is expected to be tough as traders vie for Libya's prized light, sweet oil exports, worth a nominal $145 million a day at current oil prices.
"Our tenders are now very transparent," a senior NOC source said on Monday. He added that Libya would accept bids from firms linked to countries that were slow to acknowledge Libya's interim government.
"We invite Russians and Chinese, but they can't compete with other (traders) and even integrated companies. They are far away from Libya and we're in the Mediterranean."
The NOC has also issued a tender to buy around 8 million tonnes of fuel in 2012, with traders now awaiting the results.
Before the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi began in February, Libya was producing around 1.6 million bpd, of which 1.3 million bpd was exported before fighting caused flows to dry up.
A large portion of current production is going to domestic refineries, which together have the capacity to process nearly a quarter of total output.
The latest data is more conservative than other official Libyan estimates, but these NOC numbers may be more authoritative, given that they were sent directly to clients ahead of key negotiations on 2012 supply contracts.
"I think this is also pretty optimistic," said an oil trader who received the document.
Greater-than-expected Libyan supplies could exert a bearish influence on Brent crude. The front month contract was trading down $2 at $112.16 a barrel by 1709 GMT.
The NOC chairman told reporters on Sunday that full pre-war output was possible by the end of 2012, and acting prime minister Ali Tarhouni said last week that supplies would be back to pre-conflict levels by about June 2012.
The west's energy watchdog, the International Energy Agency, said last week that Libyan oil is returning faster than expected but that production was likely to reach only 1.17 million bpd by the fourth quarter of 2012.
The loss of Libya's prized easy-to-refine oil helped push prices to over $125 a barrel in February, and the still limited volumes on the international market have given support to Brent.
The document also showed that 10 of 11 key grades would be producing by next month, with the Es Sider grade in the Sirte Basin due to come onstream in the first quarter of 2012.
Traders said they had submitted offers to supply Libya with fuel in 2012 following a meeting in Istanbul earlier this month in what is likely to be a test case for the new administration's ability to do business in international markets.
These tenders include import requirements for 3 million tonnes of gasoline, 3 million tonnes of fuel oil and 2 million tonnes of gasoil in 2012, trade sources said.
Tenders were also issued for supplies during November and December, trade sources said.
Oil product traders said the NOC was asking for open credit terms, which could limit the pool of suppliers and could favour major trading houses such as Glencore (GLEN.L) and Vitol.
"It will probably limit the number of traders who can compete, since not everyone will be able to offer open credit. Others haven't been paid yet for past deliveries, so they won't be able to wait forever," said an oil industry source at a firm competing for a 2012 fuels contract.
Libya is a net exporter of crude, but insufficient refining capacity means that it still has to import products on the international market.