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Libya’s NOC Pushes for Upstream and Downstream Revival

In the past twenty-four months, Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) has navigated a series of daunting challenges: a months-long blockade against oil exports and resultant halt in production, the onset of COVID-19, and ongoing budgetary constraints. Yet efforts to return production to pre-blockade levels, despite these challenges, have not been without success. In October 2020, following the signing of a comprehensive ceasefire agreement between opposing factions, Libya’s NOC lifted its force majeure on crude exports from key terminals. As soon as one month later, the North African producer had returned to pumping one million barrels per day (bpd), now averaging 1.2 million bpd in the first half of 2021.

The national oil company not only contributes the lion’s share of government revenue, but also has a key role in ensuring sovereignty and maintaining ownership over domestic natural resources. Accounting for 70% of domestic oil output, the NOC dominates Libya’s oil industry, along with a number of its affiliated entities, including Waha Oil Company, Arabian Gulf Oil Company, Zueitina Oil Company and Sirte Oil Company.

In a bid to increase and optimize production at existing assets, Libya’s NOC has been seeking to boost the presence of IOCs operating in-country, including TotalEnergies, Eni, ConocoPhillips, OMV and Repsol, as well as facilitate the entry of new foreign players. In recent months, Libya’s NOC has met with several IOC heads to advance discussions on increasing their activities within the market, including meetings with Shell in August and Eni in October. In addition to oil and gas exploration and development, the NOC is fostering cooperation with international firms on knowledge and technology transfer, development of human resources, refinery development, renewable energy projects and decentralized power solutions.

An influx of foreign investment would also enable the NOC to carry out much-needed repairs, upgrades and maintenance works on midstream and downstream infrastructure. The country is currently in the midst of ongoing negotiations to approve its first national budget in seven years that would provide for the allocation of funds for development, of which a sizable share would be directed to the oil industry. Libya has long-faced production losses due to aging and damaged infrastructure, most recently including a leaking pipeline that reduced output by up to 200,000 bpd. The NOC has been vocal about the urgent need to approve and release funds to not only meet targeted production increases, but also maintain existing output. Going forward, the ability to reach ambitious production targets (1.8 million bpd by 2022) will be contingent on sufficient budget from the NOC to repair damaged oil infrastructure and robust investment from the country’s leading IOCs in ongoing exploration and production activities.

In the downstream sector, the NOC owns and operates several refining facilities and oil and gas processing companies, including Zawia, Ras Lanuf, Brega, Tobruk and Sarir refineries, with close to 380,000 bpd refined by NOC subsidiaries. Last month, the state-owned firm announced plans to construct a refinery in Sebha to be operated by NOC subsidiary Zallaf, which would produce cooking gas and jet fuel, among other petroleum products. The NOC also produces petrochemicals via the Ras Lanuf refinery that uses naphtha as feedstock and the Brega refinery that uses natural gas, as well as operates ammonia, urea and methanol plants.

Libya’s renewable energy potential will be unpacked during a renewable energy panel at the upcoming Libya Energy & Economic Summit 2021, taking place on 22-23 November 2021, in-person in Tripoli and on Zoom for online participants. Energy Capital & Power is honored to work with the Government of National Unity and all industry participants to produce this historic summit.

Companies interested in supporting the event can contact sales@energycapitalpower.com for more information. Individuals and organizations that wish to join as speakers or panelists can contact speak@energycapitalpower.com and media partners can contact media@energycapitalpower.com. Learn more at www.libyasummit.com.

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Grace Goodrich

Grace Goodrich

Grace Goodrich is a Field Editor at ECP, where she writes about the intersection of energy, policy and global finance in sub-Saharan Africa's fastest-growing economies. Grace produces our Africa Energy Series investment reports in Angola and Equatorial Guinea (2019), as well as co-authored African Energy Chamber: Road to Recovery (2021).

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