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Clashes at Libya’s oil port of Ras Lanuf resulted in a third storage tank set on fire, a witness and an oil engineer told Reuters on Thursday.
Over the past week, two other oil storage tanks were set on fire at Ras Lanuf, resulting in a 400,000-barrel reduction of crude oil storage capacity, Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) said this past Monday, adding that the damage at the Ras Lanuf terminal was “catastrophic.”
Last week, the NOC announced force majeure on crude oil loadings from the Ras Lanuf and Es Sider port terminals, effective June 14.
The NOC warned earlier this week that the fire could spread to three other storage tanks, which would shut down storage at Ras Lanuf completely and lead to a suspension of exports. This would have a devastating effect on the Libyan oil industry, which had been recovering nicely, pushing 1.1 million bpd before attacks on fields and infrastructure became increasingly frequent.
The production expansion became possible after the LNA took control over the Oil Crescent with its four oil export terminals from the Petroleum Facilities Guard in September 2016. The army then passed this control into the hands of the NOC.
Now, it is being challenged by the Benghazi Defense Brigades—a group that the LNA drove out of Benghazi and is now trying to regain ground—and Petroleum Facilities Guard forces led by Ibrahim Jathran.
Libya is now looking for ways to get hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil to international markets after fighting shut down its two biggest export terminals, Es Sider and Ras Lanuf. S&P Platts reports that the country’s oil production has been slashed from 950,000 bpd in May to less than half a million barrels after the clashes erupted, and the NOC is considering redirecting crude oil to the terminals of Brega and Zueitina.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com