Libyan Oil Workers’ Strike Pushes World Oil Prices Up
14 August, 2013
Reports on disruption in Libyan oil supply lead to rise in world oil prices. New strikes by oil workers in Libya compelled to shut down the country’s two biggest export terminals in Es Sider and Ras Lanuf. The workers’ strike has increased concerns about a disruption to global oil supply. Jobless people have joined the striking workers.
The security guards are seeking more pay while local people demand for more oil sector jobs.
As labor and social protests sweeping across Libya media reports from the unstable country said:
Brent North Sea crude for delivery in September climbed 69 cents to stand at $109.66 a barrel in London midday deals. New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate for September, grew 25 cents to $106.36 a barrel.
Libyan oil exports had earlier this month plunged by more than 70 percent after protesters including policemen and border guards, forced terminals to shut over demands for back pay.
Striking security guards re-imposed a two-week-old shutdown at Libya's two biggest crude export terminals on August 12, 2013, hours after they had reopened, and more oilfields closed in a wave of protest that is propping up world oil prices.
The outages at ports and fields have brought the worst disruption to the North African OPEC member's oil industry since the civil war in 2011.
A source at Arabian Gulf Oil Company (AGOCO) said output at the state oil company subsidiary had dropped below 60,000 barrels per day (bpd) due to strikes, down from levels of 375,000 bpd before the disruption.
Meanwhile, loadings halted again at the Es Sider and Ras Lanuf terminals, with a combined export capacity of 600,000 bpd, due to actions by the armed guards whose job is to protect them, trading and shipping sources said.
In total, around 15 crude and oil product tankers were waiting outside the two ports.
The blows to exports from Libya, OPEC's ninth largest producer, have limited falls in benchmark Brent crude oil futures, traders said.
European refineries are paying high prices for alternatives due to a shortage of light sweet Libyan crude oil.
AGOCO's Sarir, Nafoora and two small oilfields were shut while the Mesla field and Hamada fields were producing around 50,000 bpd and 10,000 bpd, so far.
"If the situation continues...we could be forced to halt production completely at Mesla field when we reach maximum storage capacity," an AGOCO company document showed.
At the coast, the port Marsa al Hariga, which handles the Sarir export grade of crude and feeds the oil refinery at Ras Lanuf, has also been closed, a company source said.
Trading sources said the port of Zueitina was closed. Oil industry sources said the three terminals remained closed.
A Reuters survey said:
The protests and strikes cut output last month to 1.15 million bpd versus 1.3 million bpd the previous month.
Before the unrest, Libya's production had nearly recovered to the rates of 1.6 million bpd seen before the conflict that led to the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Libya's Deputy Oil Minister Omar Shakmak said on Thursday that the government should not give in to the protesters. "If this is accepted, it is possible then maybe some others will do the same thing," Shakmak said in Washington.
The disruptions to Libya's oil sector risk crippling its economic lifeline and choking off state revenues.
The El-Feel oilfield, with production capacity of 130,000 bpd, has been shut down for several weeks. The field is operated by Mellitah - a joint venture between Libya's state energy firm and Italy's Eni.
Berbers charge parliament
Members of Libya's Berber minority forced their way into the General National Congress building in Tripoli on Aug. 13. The charging Berbers smashed windows and destroyed furniture, during a demonstration to press for greater recognition.
Hundreds of Berbers gathered to oppose a law approved last month to reserve just two of the seats on the Constitutional Commission for members of their community. Berber activists charges that Congress is deliberately marginalizing ethnic minorities. Two seats each were also reserved for the Tuareg and Tebu communities.
The protest was organized by the Supreme Amazigh Council of Libya, along with town councils in the Tamazight-speaking areas of the Jebel Nafusa, such as Jadu, Nalut and Yefren.
The Supreme Amazigh Council, along with the Supreme Tuareg Council and the Tebu National Assembly, last month threatened to boycott the elections to the 60-member Commission if they were not given more than the apportioned two seats each.
Berber leaders estimate that there are at least three-quarters of a million Libyans who identify as members of the Berber or Amazigh people (out of a total population of 6.4 million). Tamazight is spoken by far fewer of these, but a variant of the language is also spoken by the Tuareg. The language was effectively banned under the Qaddafi regime, and has seen a reflorescence since the dictator's fall.
However, calls for Libya to follow Morocco's example and make it an official language are meeting resistance from lawmakers.
Hisham Hamadi, a member of the legal committee of the Supreme Amazigh Council, warned that the Jebel Nafusa would declare itself an autonomous province, in control of all its natural resources, if the GNC remains intransigent on Berber demands.
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