TRIPOLI, Libya, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Libya's oil and gas minister says the closure of the country's oil ports has resulted in massive economic losses.
During a press conference Saturday in the Libyan capital Tripoli, Oil and Gas Minister Abdel-Barri Arrousi told reporters that since July 25 the nation had lost nearly $1.6 billion in oil revenues as a result of the shutdown, adding that a further consequence would be a loss of trust with international buyers due to a lack of reliability, while the breaking of contracts will result in massive lawsuits.
The stoppage began when strikers closed down export operations at Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, Libya's two main crude oil export terminals, resulting in a combined loss of about 600,000 barrels per day for the two eastern ports. Speaking July 31, Aroussi added that the eastern ports of Marsa al-Brega and Marsa al-Hariga had also been shut down.
"If the situation continues like this, Libya will plunge into darkness," he said.
The ministry said Libyan oil exports now stand at a paltry 330,000 bpd, with the country struggling to return oil output to pre-revolution levels of an estimated 1.65 million bpd. Only Ras Lanuf has restarted oil exports, Libya TV reported Saturday.
In the wake of popular unrest beginning in February 2011 against the regime of Moammar Gadhafi, Libyan oil and natural gas exports went through a near-total disruption during months of intense fighting with the country's minimal and sporadic oil production being consumed domestically. The U.S. State Department said oil accounted for about 95 percent of Libya's export earnings, 75 percent of its government receipts and 25 percent of its gross domestic product prior to the 2011 political unrest.
Libyan oil production slowly began to recover in September 2011 following the overthrow of Gadhafi's regime and the gradual consolidation of control over most parts of the country by the Transitional National Council and affiliated rebel militias.
Libya is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, exporting mostly high-quality light, sweet crude oil.
Libya holds the largest proven oil reserves in Africa and is an important contributor to the global supply of light, sweet crude. Following the outbreak of the strikes, OPEC in its August monthly report stated that "due to unrest" the Mediterranean oil market has tightened because of the absence of "at least" 500,000 bpd of Libyan crude. The Libya Herald said foreign oil companies operating in Libya, including Germany's Wintershall and Italy's Eni, expect disruptions to continue, even as the newspaper reported that the situation at export terminals is not just a labor issue, but about "autonomous control over energy production in the east of Libya."
Libya's oil production remains affected by ongoing concerns about security conditions, government stability, political institutions, the return of foreign capital and expertise, contract terms and industry oversight. In the worst terrorist incident since the overthrow of Gadhafi, terrorists in Libya's restive eastern city of Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, killed four Americans, including the ambassador to Libya.