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Total expects to see pre-war Libya oil output

Total execs in Tripoli as part of French delegation; Trade Minister says expects health sector contracts; Hopeful on revived Airbus orders

December 21, 2011 8:54 by

Total expects its oil production in Libya to return to pre-war levels as soon as next month, a company executive told Reuters on Tuesday as the oil major and other French companies campaigned for new business in the war-torn country.

“We have been at normal levels of production offshore since Sept. 23, and our field onshore will now restart. We should be back to our usual level (of output) very quickly, at the least in January,” said Bernard Avignon, Total’s head of exploration and production (E&P) in Libya.

Avignon made the comments on the sidelines of a delegation of French business officials led by Trade Minister Pierre Lellouche travelling to Tripoli as France seeks to benefit from its role in the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi.

Lellouche, who was visiting the Libyan capital accompanied by about a hundred French business leaders, said he expected letters of intention and contracts, notably in the health sector, as well as potential jetliner orders for Airbus .

Earlier in the day, Michel Seguin, special adviser to Total’s E&P head, said the French group expected to restart its onshore production in a few days.

“There are still some logistical issues that need to be sorted out,” Seguin said.

Total had production of 55,000 barrels a day in Libya prior to the eight-month war that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi.

Libya was Africa’s third-largest producer before the war, pumping around 1.6 million barrels per day and exporting about 1.3 million bpd, mostly to European clients.

The country’s oil output has now reached 1 million bpd, its oil minister said last week after an OPEC meeting, in a further sign of a more rapid-than-expected recovery.

Total’s operations currently focus on the Al Jurf oilfield offshore and the Mabruk field onshore, but the French group also hopes to capitalise on France’s backing of the country’s new leaders during the civil war.

Last week, a senior source at Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) told Reuters Total would be among 10 companies that would get priority access to term supplies of its crude oil in 2012.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy spearheaded military intervention in Libya and France’s top firms are eager to capitalise on the positive sentiment towards Paris among the country’s new leaders.

Lellouche said European planemaker Airbus, part of aerospace and defence group EADS, had resumed talks to deliver aircraft to Libya following Gaddafi’s fall.

Libyan carriers have a backlog of orders worth about $4 billion at current list prices for Airbus aircraft that have not yet been produced or delivered.

“Airbus has reopened discussions about deliveries that should go to Libya,” Lellouche said.

Afriqiyah Airways has unfilled orders worth about $2 billion, including for six A350-800 wide-body planes. One plane was recently seen at the Airbus delivery centre in Toulouse, in France, awaiting delivery to Afriqiyah.

State carrier Libyan Airlines also has planes worth about $2 billion on order, including four A350s. (By Matthias Blamont; Writing by Marie Maitre and James Regan; Editing by Jane Baird, Gary Hill)

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