Libyan Militia Seize Major Oil Terminal

Libyan Militia Seize Major Oil TerminalLibyan Militia Seize Major Oil Terminal

Libya’s biggest oil port was seized by an armed group, dealing a blow to the North African country as it seeks to revive production of its most important commodity. Brent crude futures climbed.

The Benghazi Defense Brigades, a militia that is not allied to the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli, took control of the Es Sider terminal on Friday afternoon, according to people with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak to the media, Bloomberg reported.

The facility had previously been under the control of eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar.

“That is a considerable blow to Haftar,” said Mattia Toaldo, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “We have to see if there is an immediate impact on exports. But for confidence in Libya’s production it’s a blow.”

The clashes show just how vulnerable Libya’s recent oil-production surge is to conflict that escalated in late 2014 but that had shown signs of calming in the past few months.

The nation pumped about 700,000 barrels a day in February, almost doubling from a year ago, according to information compiled by Bloomberg. Brent crude futures climbed near $56 following the port’s seizure.

After sweeping through the oil crescent in September and taking control of the ports in the region, Haftar had allowed Libya’s National Oil Corp., part of the Tripoli-backed government that he opposes, to use Es Sider for oil exports.

But production remains vulnerable without a lasting peace between the east and west of the country. International efforts to break the political stalemate have so far failed.

There have been skirmishes in the area between the two sides before. Friday’s fighting marks an escalation and highlights threats to the North African country’s efforts to restore its crude production following two years of conflict.

Libyan oil production has been rising, with shipments from key ports resuming after many months of conflict. The more it pumps, the greater the pressure on other members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to curb supply in order to eliminate a global oil glut.

“It’s still very early to judge the situation, and it depends on the ability of each side to sustain their control over the area,” said Zeid Ragas, a Libyan political commentator.

Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints