Salma El Wardany, Saleh Sarrar and Hatem Mohareb

Libya’s ‘Elephant’ oil field reopens as biggest port set to ship

Libya reopened one of its biggest oil fields and is preparing for the first time in two years to ship crude from its largest export terminal, as the war-torn OPEC state pursues plans to almost double output in 2017.

The El Feel, or Elephant, field, in which Eni SpA has a stake, started pumping oil to the Mellitah energy complex on Thursday and is expected to reach output of 75,000 barrels a day within a week, Khaled Hadloul, an engineer at operator Mellitah Oil & Gas, said in a phone interview. Repsol SA-operated Sharara, Libya’s largest field, will soon start pumping crude to the Zawiya refinery after pipelines reopened Wednesday, said Mansur Abdullah, manager of the plant’s oil movement. The fields, closed for more than a year and a half, have a combined output capacity exceeding 450,000 barrels a day.

The tanker Seamusic is scheduled to arrive at the port of Es Sider on Friday to take on the first crude for overseas shipment from the terminal since 2014, Adnan Omran, general manager of Al Omran International Maritime Agencies, said by phone. The vessel will load 630,000 barrels of Es Sider crude and sail for Italy, he said.

Libya’s comeback will put more pressure on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other major producers that agreed over the past two weeks to cut their output to rein in an oversupply and shore up prices. The North African nation, which was exempted from OPEC’s planned cuts because of its internal strife, is currently producing 600,000 barrels a day, less than half of the 1.6 million it pumped before a 2011 uprising.

Rival Governments

Libya’s output shrank after international oil companies withdrew amid fighting between rival governments and militias. Libya is targeting output of 900,000 barrels a day by the end of 2016 and about 1.1 million barrels next year, NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said Nov. 16.

The restart of El Feel and the expected reopening on Sharara came after the NOC reached an agreement with protesters who had been blocking pipelines that connect the fields with the Zawiya refinery and Mellitah complex, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said, asking not to be identified because the issue isn’t public. Zawiya has received instructions to prepare for the imminent reopening of the fields, the refinery’s Abdullah said.

The pipeline from Sharara has been blocked since November 2014, and the link from El Feel was shut from April 2015.

The Seamusic will load crude at Es Sider for Norway’s Statoil ASA, Libya’s Lana news agency reported Thursday, citing an unidentified person at the National Oil Corp. NOC plans to export a second cargo from the terminal by the end of the year, it said.

Es Sider, on the central coast, is ready to export as much as 1.5 million barrels and has storage capacity of 2.5 million, an NOC official said on Nov. 8, asking not to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak with news media. The port, operated by Waha Oil Co., had been closed since December 2014, when armed groups attacked the facility and damaged its storage tanks and infrastructure.