, PARIS, Feb 23 – French energy giant Total said on Wednesday that it was "starting to suspend" part of its oil production in Libya where protests against Moamer Kadhafi\’s rule have killed hundreds.
"We have started to suspend some of our production capacity in Libya," a Total spokesman told AFP, asking not to be named and without providing further details.
Total produced an average of 55,000 barrels per day (bpd) from its Libyan wells in 2010 or 2.3 percent of the giant\’s production.
The turmoil in Libya, Africa\’s fourth largest oil producer, has sent crude prices soaring with Brent North Sea crude hitting $108.57 per barrel at one stage, the highest level since September 2008.
In Asian trading Wednesday, Brent stood at $106.47 a barrel, despite a promise from the world\’s biggest exporter Saudi Arabia that there would be no shortages on the global market.
Italy\’s ENI, which produced 244,000 bpd in Libya in 2009, said on Tuesday it was temporarily suspending some of its oil and gas production activities and was also cutting its Greenstream gas pipeline between Libya and Italy.
The severing of natural gas supplies to Libya\’s ex-colonial master and top trade partner prompted Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to phone Kadhafi and urge him to pursue peace.
Spain\’s biggest oil company Respol has also said it is suspending its production in Libya. Spain and France have notably sought to reassure their citizens that there will be no fuel supply problems whatever happens in Libya.
However, Madrid said it would on Friday discuss whether to pass a new energy law if the tensions in Libya, from which it imports 13 percent of its oil, leads to a new hike in the price of oil.
Measures could include economies in the consumption of lighting or speed limits on the motorway, encouraging the use of public transport and the calling on companies to use energy more efficiently, the government has said.
Many countries and companies have been evacuating their workers and suspending their operations.
Total said on Monday it was repatriating most of its expatriate staff from Libya, although some would stay behind "with reinforced security measures".
Strongman Kadhafi is increasingly isolated amid his brutal crackdown against the insurrection, with his opponents controlling much of the energy-rich North African nation.
Libya\’s government has said 300 people, including 111 soldiers, have been killed in the protests, which erupted on February 15 after the rulers of neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt were ousted in similar uprisings.