Saturday, July 16, 2011

Libyan Rebels repaired the Sarir and Misla oilfields

REBEL-held Arabian Gulf Oil (Agoco) has repaired the Sarir and Misla oilfields; anti-regime forces have cleared the surrounding area of loyalist troops; and ;production could begin today, a senior industry source said on 15 July.

Oil output could reach 180,000 barrels a day (b/d) in the short term, enough to export three or four cargoes a month from Tobruk and earn the Transitional National Council (TNC) a vital stream of revenue as its forces close in on Muammar Qadhafi's troops in Brega, Gharyan, Zliten and Tripoli.

At international prices, such production volumes would earn the TNC almost $2 million a day. The rebel government has spent recent weeks pleading for cash from Western countries backing its campaign against the government.

Security tight as production resumes

Agoco is understood to be awaiting a brigade of troops to arrive at the Sarir and Misla oilfields to ensure security as production resumes. The TNC is thought to have begun putting an installation protection force together, possibly involving troops from the Tabu tribe, from Libya's southern border region.;Jalu is clear; the source said, referring to a town near the oilfields that had been used by Qadhafi forces to attack the facilities.

The fields, which were producing well over 300,000 b/d before the war, were shut in following attacks on surface installations in April and June. Another attack in late April knocked out a booster station on the pipeline that links the fields with the Marsa el-Hariga port, next to Tobruk.

Agoco has found a by-pass that will allow oil to flow through the pipeline at a reduced pressure and capacity without using the damaged booster station. The company has also been shopping in the UK to find parts to replace the booster station, although it is understood that no foreign firm is yet willing to enter Libya's rebel-held east to carry out the repairs.

Sarir and Misla both generate their own electricity to power surface facilities. But small oil production must begin first, enabling associated gas to fire turbines to maintain output.

Agoco says it is ready; said the source.They just need a full brigade of guards there to protect [the installations].

The Benghazi-based company, a unit of Libya's National Oil Company, has been under rebel control since the start of the rebellion. The source said it had brought vehicles and parts from other oilfields elsewhere in Libya to complete work on Sarir and Misla.

Since the uprising in February, Tobruk has exported three cargoes of Sarir and Misla crude oil; but only one shipment, lifted by Vitol in early April, has earned the rebels any income. Money for the two other cargoes went to Tripoli, under terms agreed before the conflict.

Rebels in Brega

The news that the TNC may now begin producing oil will buoy the rebel's hopes elsewhere in Libya. On 14 July, reports emerged that rebel forces had entered Brega, Qadhafi's most heavily defended city outside Tripoli. Brega's fall would give the rebels a key oil-export hub and, said military experts, a launch pad to capture the rest of the coastal road.

Nato has struck Brega dozens of times in the past two weeks, including attacks on its oil installations, marking an implicit shift in strategy, said a Western diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Fighting in the Nafusa Mountains, in the west, is also bringing the rebels closer to Tripoli ; and to Gharyan, a garrison city south of the capital that is also key to one of the last remaining supply routes for regime fuel, which it is sourcing from Algeria.

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