Libya has potential for energy project surge

6 July 2023

MEED's August 2023 report on Libya also includes:

Libyan pipeline contract awarded
Libyan oil company in pipeline procurement talks
Libya’s Waha Oil plans water plant
Halliburton in talks for $1bn Libya oil project
Eni signs gas deal in Libya

 


After a string of major energy project announcements in the country, Libya will likely be on course for a surge in project activity as long as it can maintain political stability and security.

However, the current period of stability is looking increasingly fragile amid threats from the military leader General Khalifa Haftar, who has warned of military action unless oil revenues are divided fairly within the next two months.

Eastern politicians claim the Central Bank distributes the bulk of oil revenues to the rival UN-recognised government based in Tripoli, even though the oil is produced in fields largely based in the east of the country.

The US special envoy to Libya, Richard Norland – eager to keep oil production flowing – had urged the east not to disrupt production.

The heightened political tensions come after a promising period of increased business activity within Libya that many believe could still pave the way for a boom in the country’s energy sector – if conflict can be avoided.

Recent announcements include a partnership between Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) and Italy's Eni to develop two regions containing expected gas reserves of 6 trillion cubic feet.

The upstream Mellitah complex integrated expansion is meanwhile estimated to be worth $8bn. It is anticipated to have a production capacity of 750 million cubic feet a day (cf/d) of gas for a period of 25 years.

The deal between Eni and NPC for the expansion project was announced in January, but in April MEED revealed that the project still needed board approval before tenders for the main contracts could be issued.

It is possible that stakeholders in this project, like many other major projects in the country, are taking their time before finalising the contract to better gauge the political and security environment before they commit to large-scale investment.

Security company licensing system overhauled in Libya

Political instability

Libya has been plagued by frequent outbreaks of conflict for more than a decade since the removal of Muammar Gaddafi during the Arab Spring in 2011.

Since his removal, rival factions have continually vied for power and the country has failed to create a unified government.

At the moment, the country has two rival governments. The Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU) exerts control over territory in the west of the country, and the Tobruk-based House of Representatives controls territory in the east.

Elections planned for 24 December 2021 were expected to unify the country under a single government, but they never occurred and many of the contested issues that derailed the democratic process in 2021 remain unresolved.

Key problematic issues include the eligibility criteria for presidential candidates and how candidates with military affiliations should be treated.

It has been reported that both sides have agreed that candidates with military affiliations must automatically resign from their military posts if they become candidates, but debate remains over whether provisions should be in place to stop them from resuming their positions once the electoral process has concluded.

Additionally, both sides have agreed that dual nationals that want to stand as president should give up the citizenship of the second country, but no mechanism has been decided on to verify compliance.

While it is clear that undisputed elections and the formation of a single unified government are the best-case scenario, it is possible that the country’s business community and energy sector will prosper without this in place.

UK foreign office asked to relax Libya travel advice

Conflict cooldown

Since the June 2020 conclusion of Operation Flood of Dignity, a year-long campaign in which Tobruk-aligned military forces tried to capture Tripoli, Libya has seen a significant improvement in its security situation and an uptick in energy sector activity.

The increase in business activity since then has shown that the country can attract international businesses for multibillion-dollar projects without a single unified government in place.

Other business deals that have been announced include the signing of a contract between NOC and US-based Honeywell for engineering work on the planned South Refinery project in Libya.

The project is expected to be carried out in two phases and is anticipated to cost between $500m and $600m.

Additionally, Libya’s Waha Oil Company is in advanced talks with US-based Halliburton over a $1bn project to rehabilitate the country’s Al-Dhara oil field.

On top of the series of announcements regarding major projects with international companies, there has also been an uptick in small-scale energy project activity, according to contractors active in the country.

All this points to the future looking promising for the country’s energy sector, as long as stability and security can be maintained. However, keeping the peace is unlikely to be easy, given the precarious nature of the political situation.

Sudan situation

The ongoing conflict in Libya’s neighbour, Sudan, has sparked an influx of refugees into Libya and rising uncertainty about future stability.

Analysts have warned that increased arms trafficking could be part of the fallout from the ongoing war in Sudan as control over the country’s arms storage facilities and borders is reduced.

Further flows of arms into the south of Libya could potentially embolden militias in the region and erode security.

Additionally, before the conflict in Sudan, the African Union and Arab League played significant roles in mediating the unresolved issues between Libya’s two rival governments.

Likely, at least some of the resources that would previously have been used to try to strengthen stability in Libya will now have to be used to deal with the escalating crisis in Sudan.

Maintaining peace and finding common ground between Libya’s rival governments is likely to be critical to the future growth of the country’s energy sector and the broader economy.

https://image.digitalinsightresearch.in/uploads/NewsArticle/10983464/main1954.jpg
Wil Crisp
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