Libya Renews Focus on Natural Gas, Plans to Explore Shale

Libya plans boost production of natural gas and is studying options to explore unconventional reserves, National Oil Co. Chairman Nuri Berruien said.

The country is now producing 2.5 billion cubic meters a day of gas and aims to reach its full capacity of 3 billion cubic meters per a day by the start of next year, Berruien said today in an interview while attending a conference in Vienna.

Libya’s oil and gas production screeched to a halt last year during the uprising that overthrew the government of Muammar Qaddafi. The north African country is working to restore its output, bring in international oil companies such as Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Total SA and explore new gas deposists using unconventional techniques such as drilling through shale.

“Gas has never been a priority for us, but it is now,” Berruien said. “We may have some of the most important shale gas deposists in the world.”

Libya may hold as much as 290 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable shale gas, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the eighth largest in the world.

Shale production, which involves the drilling of hundreds of wells and blasting of rock with water and chemicals, has turned the U.S. into the world’s largest producer of natural gas, but has been banned in some European countries because of potential environmental hazard.

“Right now we are evaluating the reserves and talking to our partners,” Berruien said. “The potential is definitely there.”

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