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Libya: Rebels producing 100,000 bpd oil, ministers group meets in Qatar

Reuters/Yannis Behrakis

Civilians arrive to pay a visit to rebel fighters at the front-line at the western entrance of Ajdabiyah April 12, 2011.

DOHA, Apr 13, 2011

Rebels trying to overthrow Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi want to increase their exports of crude oil to secure food and other humanitarian aid, a spokesman for the Libyan National Council said on Wednesday.

The rebels control fields that currently pump 100,000 barrels per day of crude, Mahmud Awad Shammam told reporters, but are only exporting what he termed a "minimal" amount of oil.

OPEC member Qatar, which has offered to help the rebels market their crude, said on Tuesday it had facilitated the sale of 1 million barrels of oil as well as arranged the shipment of at least four cargoes of gasoline, diesel and other fuel to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

"There is a formula but we are not receiving any cash (for the oil). Instead we are receiving aid," Shammam said, adding the rebels still faced shortages of gasoline.

Libyan oil exports have been at a virtual standstill since the crisis erupted in March, helping send crude prices to over $125 a barrel, their highest level since July 2008.

Saudi Arabia and other OPEC producers unilaterally boosted oil output in an effort to compensate for the loss of supplies, but the kingdom throttled back output recently due to slow demand, sources told Reuters on Tuesday.


Oil market players say they believe Qatar played a role in helping trading house Vitol export a cargo of Libyan crude earlier this month as well as assisting Trafigura, which said on Wednesday it was discussing the export of crude oil from rebel-held eastern ports of Benghazi or Tobruk.

Trade sources had said on Tuesday the trading house was planning to sell a crude oil cargo from the Libyan port of Brega, near the scene of fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Gaddafi.

It was not clear what volumes Trafigura can sell.

Vitol has declined to comment. Qatari officials would not say whether the Gulf Arab state was involved in the crude shipments.

Italy is currently not considering importing the crude oil being produced by Libyan rebels due to restrictions imposed by international sanctions, a spokesman for the country's foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

A rebel official with direct knowledge of the Libyan National Council's (LNC) export plans refused to elaborate, saying an attack on Libya's Sarir oil field earlier this month by Gaddafi loyalists was due to media reports of planned rebel oil exports.

"We are at war, and it's for the security of our (oil) supplies," the official said.

Libya's government has been on U.S., EU and U.N. sanctions lists since March. Although rebels have been unofficially excluded from them, oil majors say it will take a long time before they can start buying oil.

Meetings of the Libya Contact Group will start in Qatar on Wednesday regarding Libya's future, and will include representatives of the LNC.

The group will ask Western governments to provide $1.5 billion in aid to help meet the needs of civilians in rebel-controlled areas and would like to arrange to receive humanitarian aid in return for oil shipments, Shammam said.

Story by John Irish , Humeyra Pamuk and Emma Farge from Reuters

Reuters / Wed Apr 13, 2011 5:51am EDT


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