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Libya Adds to OPEC’s Burden as Output at Highest Since 2014

Libya is pumping the most oil in more than two years as the OPEC member restores output amid progress in mending the nation’s political divisions. The increase adds pressure on the world’s biggest producers who just signaled they may extend production cuts amid a slump in oil.

The North African country’s production has reached 796,000 barrels a day, Mustafa Sanalla, the chairman of state producer National Oil Corp., said Monday in a statement. Libya was producing about 700,000 barrels a day at the end of April, Jadalla Alaokali, a NOC board member, said at the time.

A revival in Libyan output adds to the challenge that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other major producers face after agreeing last year to pump less crude to stem a glut and shore up prices. In separate statements just hours apart on Monday, Saudi Arabia and Russia said publicly for the first time they would consider prolonging their output reductions for longer than the six-month extension OPEC is widely expected to agree to when the group meets on May 25.

Libya and Nigeria were exempted from OPEC’s cuts because both countries continue to suffer production losses from militant attacks and political instability. Nigeria’s Forcados oil pipeline, which was halted by sabotage in February 2016, was said to be fully fixed, people with direct knowledge of the matter said on Tuesday. The restart could add 200,000 barrels a day to Nigeria’s output, assuming it restores flows to the same level before the shutdown.

Oil Recovery

Political divisions, clashes between armed groups and closures of fields have disrupted output in Libya as the country with Africa’s largest crude reserves struggles to revive its most vital industry. Libya’s feuding administrations agreed last week to unite state institutions and build a national army under civilian leadership after two days of talks in Abu Dhabi.

Al-Bayda, an oil field in the east which had been closed since March 2015, has resumed production, Omran al-Zwai, a spokesman for the Arabian Gulf Oil Co., also known as Agoco, said on Tuesday. The Agoco-owned field, with a production capacity of 13,000 barrels a day, started pumping about 60,000 barrels from its tanks to the Harouge storage tanks near export terminals on the coast, he said.

Libya’s largest oil field, Sharara, is currently pumping about 225,000 barrels a day, according to a person familiar on Monday. The person asked not to be identified because they lack the authorization to speak to the media. Crude from Sharara started flowing to the Zawiya refinery following a three-week closure.

El Feel, the oil field also known as Elephant, restarted last month as well, after having been halted since April 2015. The resumption of operations at Sharara and El Feel, both in western Libya, has helped lift total national output to the highest since October 2014, when the country pumped 850,000 barrels a day, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Oil Terminals

Fighting in early March caused two of Libya’s main oil terminals to close, forcing a number of fields to stop pumping. The ports, along with the central coast, have since reopened. Libya pumped as much as 1.6 million barrels a day before an uprising in 2011 led to a plunge in output, and it’s currently one of the smallest producers in OPEC.

Sharara has a capacity of 330,000 barrels a day and is operated by a joint venture between Libya’s NOC and Repsol SATotal SA, OMV and Statoil ASA. El Feel, operated by a joint venture between the NOC and Eni SpA, can pump as much as 90,000 barrels a day.

The NOC will sell about 600,000 barrels of Mellitah blend crude from El Feel in a tender to be announced after mid-May, a person familiar with the situation said. The Mellitah sale will be the first since the field halted in 2015, the person said, asking not to be identified because they lack authority to speak to media.