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Libyan oil production tops 500,000 bpd: NOC

Oil Refinery

TRIPOLI, Nov 1 – Libyan oil production has reached 530,000 barrels per day, the National Oil Corporation said on Tuesday, exceeding expectations for the rate of recovery of the war-torn country’s vital industry.

“We are now producing 530,000 barrels per day. The main problem (in reaching this level) was that the Sharara pipeline was blocked. But they have been very quick to fix this,” a senior official at the state-run NOC told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The pipeline was blocked by the former rebels to prevent crude being pumped from the giant El-Sharara oil field to the refinery in Zawiyah during the revolution and benefiting Moamer Kadhafi’s regime, the official added.

Located in Libya’s far south, El-Sharara is operated by Spain’s Repsol YPF.

Interim oil minister Ali Tarhuni said last month that Tripoli hoped to raise the country’s oil production, which collapsed after the February uprising, to nearly one million bpd by April, and to pre-conflict levels of around 1.7 million bpd by the end of 2012.

Some 10 percent of the OPEC country’s oil infrastructure is estimated to have been seriously damaged during the eight-month conflict.

The news of Libya’s latest production levels will come as a boost to the country’s new rulers, especially after doubts expressed by international experts about their ability to swiftly ramp up crude output.

Speaking late on Monday, the National Transitional Council’s vice chairman Abdel Hafiz Ghoga said the economy was a priority for the NTC, which would “respect all previous oil contracts,” with foreign companies.

But the NOC official warned on Tuesday that problems remained on the industry’s road to recovery, including the political dispute that has shut the Waha Oil Company’s production.

Waha’s operations have been suspended since February, first over the conflict, which damaged its infrastructure, and later because of a strike prompted by the employees’ demands that their boss resign over his alleged corruption and ties to the old regime.

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“The Waha dispute is not resolved. The company can produce 360,000 bpd, but I think it will take time to reach that,” once the strike has ended, the NOC official said.

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