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Clashes at Libya oil sites cause ‘catastrophic losses’

An oil refinery in Libya's northern town of Ras Lanuf on January 11, 2017
AFP/Abdullah DOMA

Tripoli (AFP) – Libya’s National Oil Company said on Monday that it suffered “catastrophic losses” when two storage tanks were destroyed during fierce clashes in the country’s northeastern oil crescent.

Armed groups on Thursday attacked the Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra terminals held by forces loyal to Libyan strongman’s Khalifa Haftar around 650 kilometres (400 miles) east of Tripoli.

On Sunday, Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive to push the militias — loyal to rebel leader Ibrahim Jadhran — out of the oil crescent.

The NOC said it had lost “storage tanks 2 and 12 at the Ras Lanuf port terminal following Thursday’s armed assault by militia in the Oil Crescent, led by Ibrahim Jadhran”.

Ras Lanuf’s storage capacity — at 950,000 barrels of crude before the attack — has now been reduced to 550,000, the NOC said.

A photo published by the firm showed large columns of black smoke billowing from a destroyed reservoir.

Jadhran’s Petroleum Facilities Guard controlled the terminals for years following the 2011 ouster and killing of longtime Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi, but were eventually forced out by the LNA in September 2016.

“This incident will result in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in construction costs, and billions in lost sales opportunities”, the NOC said, adding it would take years to rebuild amid the country’s current security circumstances.

The NOC on Thursday said it had halted oil exports from Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra because of the violence.

NOC chief Mustafa Sanallah warned that if oil exports from these terminals remain at a standstill it could cause a “national disaster”.

Libya’s economy relies heavily on oil, with production at 1.6 million barrels per day under Kadhafi.

The 2011 uprising that ousted and killed the dictator saw production fall to about 20 percent of that level, before recovering to over one million barrels per day by the end of 2017.

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