By Irina Slav
Islamic State forces in Libya may be planning an attack on the country’s so-called Oil Crescent, where its export terminals and many fields are located, a senior official from the U.S. Africa Command told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The daily quoted AFRICOM spokeswoman Robyn Mack as saying, “At the moment, we believe that the organization (ISIS-Libya) is likely to give priority to the restructuring of security forces and infrastructure, and to launch strikes, which may include targets in the Libyan oil crescent.”
Since September last year, the Oil Crescent has been under the control of the Libyan National Army, which is affiliated with the eastern government but working with the National Oil Corporation to protect the area from militant groups.
An LNA general confirmed the AFRICOM information, saying that IS forces have made more than one attempt to enter the heart of Libya’s oil industry, but have thus far been repelled by the LNA.
On December 26, an explosion on the Zaggut to Es Sider oil pipeline in eastern Libya occurred, as confirmed by Libya’s National Oil Corporation. The pipeline transports crude oil to Libya’s largest oil export terminal, Es Sider.
Later that week, the LNA accused the Benghazi Defense Brigades—a group it has been fighting for quite a while—of being behind the attack.
Although the pipeline operator, Waha Oil Company, immediately diverted production to another pipeline, NOC was still expecting production losses of 70,000 bpd to 100,000 bpd, Libya’s state oil corporation said on the day of the explosion. The news of the Libyan oil pipeline blast sent WTI briefly above $60 a barrel on Wednesday.
Although Libya has agreed to cap its 2018 oil production at the 2017 levels as part of its contribution to the OPEC production cut pact, the country has been struggling to raise its production significantly above 1 million bpd—the level it reached this summer for the first time since 2013.
Irina Slav – A writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.