Libya gas exports to Italy to resume "in next few days"

TRIPOLI Wed Mar 6, 2013 2:48pm GMT

A view of the Mellitah Oil and Gas complex is seen, 100 km (60 miles) west of Tripoli March 4, 2013. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

A view of the Mellitah Oil and Gas complex is seen, 100 km (60 miles) west of Tripoli March 4, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Ismail Zitouny

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TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Gas exports to Italy from Libya's Mellitah complex were expected to resume "in the next few days" after a stoppage on Saturday, the chairman of the joint venture between Libya's national oil firm and Italy's Eni said.

Gas flows through the Greenstream pipeline were interrupted on Saturday following military skirmishes at the oil and gas complex.

Mellitah chairman Abdulfattah Shagan, who had visited the complex on Tuesday, said on Wednesday gas and oil operations had resumed at its Wafa fields and the venture was preparing to resume offshore gas production at Bahr Al-Salam.

He said the venture would increase oil output at its Elephant field in southwestern Libya after having had to reduce production there and at Wafa by 25 percent.

"The situation is getting better," he told Reuters.

Italian gas grid operator Snam had said it did not expect gas flows to Italy to restart on Wednesday.

On Monday Eni, the biggest foreign oil and gas player in Libya, said the plant at Mellitah had been restarted.

On the same day Libya said the army had restored order at the complex which lies near Tripoli but added gas exports to Italy would remain suspended and oil production cut back for several days.

Libya's official LANA news agency said on Tuesday Mellitah's local gas pipeline had restarted to supply power plants in the northern towns of Harcha, Khoms, Sawani and Misrata.

Italy imports around 90 percent of its gas needs, mainly from Russia and Algeria.

The Greenstream pipeline which carries gas from Libya to Italy has a capacity of at least 8 billion cubic metres per year.

(Reporting by Ali Shuaib, additional reporting by Stephen Jewkes; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchain; Editing by William Hardy)

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