(Bloomberg) — Two of Libya’s biggest oil ports stopped loading crude after armed forces clashed nearby, taking more barrels off the market just as OPEC mulls proposals to boost production.
Fighting at Es Sider and Ras Lanuf terminals led to the loss of about 240,000 barrels of Libya’s daily oil production, state energy producer National Oil Corp. said in a statement Thursday. NOC evacuated staff from both terminals, which account for 40 percent of Libya’s oil exports.
OPEC nations are holding key meetings next week in Vienna with other major producers including Russia to discuss if they should stick with a pact to restrain oil supply. Saudi Arabia and Russia have proposed boosting output to temper prices that topped $80 a barrel in May. OPEC members Iran and Venezuela, which have little capacity to raise supply themselves, oppose the plan.
Fighting erupted about 20 kilometers (13 miles) south of Es Sider, said Omran al-Hamali, a spokesman for Brigade 302, which is partly responsible for security at the oil facilities. Loading operations were suspended earlier in the day, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak to the media.
NOC declared force majeure on shipments at both terminals, according to an emailed statement signed by Chairman Mustafa Sanalla. Force majeure is a legal clause protecting a party from liability if it can’t fulfill a contract for reasons beyond its control.
“The NOC board has called for individuals or political groups who attempt to capture Libya’s oil installations, blockade production, or attempt to make NOC a bargaining chip to be brought to justice,” the company said in a separate statement. It didn’t name the parties behind the clashes. A planned tanker entry to Es Sider has been postponed, it said.
Tanker Minerva Lisa, set to load crude from Es Sider, was instructed to move 10 miles away from the port into deeper water, one person familiar with the situation said. Bloomberg tanker tracking shows the vessel headed away from the immediate vicinity of the terminal early Thursday. Another tanker, Astro Sculptor, set to load oil on June 16 at Es Sider, was cancelled, the person said.
Es Sider was set to export 15 crude cargoes, or a total of 9 million barrels this month, while Ras Lanuf was due to ship five cargoes totaling 2.8 million barrels, according to a loading program obtained by Bloomberg.
The Libyan National Army, led by Eastern Military Commander Khalifa Haftar, took control of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf along with other oil facilities in 2016, allowing them to reopen after a long blockade by rival militias. Storage tanks at the terminals were badly damaged in previous fighting.