Smoke and flame rise from an oil storage tank that was set on fire amid fighting between rival factions at Ras Lanuf terminal, Libya in this handout picture released on June 18, 2018. The National Oil Corporation. Handout via Reuters
Reuters

Libya’s National Oil Company said on Friday it expected to halt operations at two key export terminals at the weekend, slashing crude output by some 800 000 barrels per day.

The announcement came after Libya’s unity government on Tuesday urged the UN to block any “illegal” oil exports from the chaos-hit country after a rival administration seized the ports in eastern Libya’s oil crescent.

The NOC said it “anticipates ‘force majeure’ will have to be declared” on the ports of Zweitina and Al-Hariga on Sunday.

Force majeure is a legal measure that frees a company from contractual obligations due to circumstances beyond its control.

The oil ports at Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra were seized from local militias last week by military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who said all future revenues from the terminals under his control would be handed over to an unrecognised administration in the east of the country.

The NOC, which is controlled by the United Nations-recognised unity government in Tripoli, on Friday accused Haftar’s forces of blocking vessels from entering the ports.

The blockades “are crimes under Libyan and international law, and are costing the Libyan nation tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue every day,” it said.

Clashes had already forced the NOC to suspend operations at the two other ports, slashing output by 450 000 bpd.

The shutdown of Zweitina and Hariga raises those losses by a further 350 000 bpd.

Armed groups led by militia leader Ibrahim Jadhran seized Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra on June 14, before they were recaptured by Haftar’s forces.

The NOC warned of further disruption on Friday, saying the eastern Sarir refinery “may be forced to cease operations, which will restrict local fuel supplies”.

Libya’s economy relies heavily on oil, with production at 1.6 million barrels per day under former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Gaddafi’s 2011 ouster saw production fall to about 20% of that level, before recovering to more than one million barrels per day by the end of 2017.

OPEC has estimated Libya’s oil reserves at 48 billion barrels, which makes them the biggest in Africa.

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