• Protesters reopen pipeline to Zueitina in eastern Libya
  • Zueitina started loading crude on tanker, the first since May

Libya’s crude export capacity increased as Zueitina, an oil port in the eastern region, resumed loadings after a five-month halt due to protests, a workers union said.

Zueitina began Thursday loading 600,000 barrels of crude on the Sea Faith tanker, the port’s workers union president, Ramadan Lefkaih, said by phone. The shipment, bound for Italy, is the first since May, when protesters seeking jobs at state-run National Oil Corp. shut the pipeline that supplies Zueitina with crude. The protesters agreed to reopen the export route after being promised jobs, Lefkaih said.

Zueitina receives crude from fields including the NOC-operated Nafoora, Wintershall AG’s concession C96, also known as As-Sarah, and Amal, operated by Harouge Oil Operations. It has 2 million barrels in storage and its current supply rate from the fields stands at 30,000 barrels a day, said Lefkaih. It has an installed export capacity of 70,000 barrels a day, according to the oil ministry.

Kassel, Germany-based Wintershall on Oct. 2 said it was pumping batches of stored crude from tanks in C96 to Zueitina as stable pumping depended on other producers using the same pipeline. C96 was exporting as much as 35,000 barrels a day through Zueitina before the pipeline closed on May 5.

Libya, with Africa’s biggest oil reserves, pumped about 1.6 million barrels a day of crude before the 2011 rebellion that ended Muammar Qaddafi’s 42-year rule. Political infighting and workers protests curtailed production to 350,000 barrels a day in September, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The United Nations on Wednesday expressed hope that rival administrations established in 2014 in eastern and western Libya will be able to form a unity government on Thursday, a development that would eventually facilitate the resumption of exports from oil ports that remain closed, including Es Sider, the nation’s largest. UN-sponsored peace talks are under way in Skhirat, Morocco.

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