Libya's oil exports still restricted, little improvement
LONDON (Reuters) - Libyan crude oil exports showed little improvement on Wednesday after falling to a trickle this week, except for one tanker that was expected to load condensate from the small western port of Mellitah, trading sources said.
Over the weekend, Libya's two western ports of Zawiya and Mellitah suspended oil exports, on top of the closures of its eastern facilities.
Exports from the OPEC producer have fallen to around 90,000 barrels per day (bpd) from the two offshore oil platforms, Al Jurf and Bouri, or less than 10 percent of its 1.25 million bpd capacity.
Meanwhile, its eastern ports showed no sign of re-opening. Brega port in the east, which is technically open, cannot export due to low oil output at nearby fields.
Production was at 20,000 bpd from Brega fields, a senior official of the state National Oil Corp (NOC) said, citing strikes as the reason for the production drop. Last week, local Libyan sources and traders said that flows had fallen due largely to electricity supply problems.
There was no sign that the El Sharara oilfield, which supplies the Zawiya terminal with crude, had resumed.
Several market sources said the Makronissos tanker, chartered by Trafigura and next in line, had been given instructions to berth at the Mellitah terminal to load condensate after protesters at the port gave permission.
Reuters AIS Live ship tracking showed, however, the tanker, which has been anchored off the coast since mid-October, had moved closer to the port since Tuesday but had again switched off its engines almost two miles offshore.
Traders said it was not yet clear whether this loading would be successful, nor whether more vessels would call on the port, given the ongoing stand-off with the Amazigh minority group, also known as Berbers.
"We believe that a resumption of the production and exports at the Sharara oil field and the Mellitah port is likely to require weeks, due to the political nature of this protest by non-Arab minority groups," Riccardo Fabbiani, North Africa analyst at Eurasia Group consultancy, said in a note.
"The government is likely to offer guarantees on language and minority rights and citizenship ... Although this will fall short of meeting their requests," he added.
FOREIGN INVESTORS CUT OUTLOOK
Italian oil and gas group Eni said it expected its 2013 output to be lower than in 2012 due to Libyan and Nigerian disruptions. The company is the largest foreign major in Libya through Mellitah Oil and Gas, a joint venture with NOC.
Before the 2011 civil war, the venture produced around 270,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day of natural gas and crude oil, most of it for export.
U.S.-based producer Hess meanwhile reported a lower-than-expected third-quarter profit due to Libyan unrest.
The company is one of three stakeholders in the Waha Oil Co in eastern Libya, which had produced 320,000 to 340,000 bpd of its main export grade Es Sider.
The main export terminal for the light sweet Es Sider grade has been blocked by an armed group of former guards since the end of July. Fields had to be shut down soon after when storage tanks reached capacity.
Marathon and ConocoPhillips are also in the Waha venture with NOC. Marathon attempted a stake sale earlier this year but these plans were scuppered by the NOC.
(Editing by Jane Baird)
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