Foreign oil companies eye Libyan treasure trove: captain Ali Kikli may not be a politician or a government minister but here at the remote Essider oil terminal 650km east of Tripoli, he is clearly the boss.

Author:Luxner, Larry


"This complex represents many billions of dollars of investment. It's the largest oil terminal on the Mediterranean," Kikli says proudly, as he takes his visitor on a tour of the sprawling, carefully guarded coastal facility which exports one-third of Libya's petroleum.

The captain shows off Essider's tank farm, which consists of 18 enormous white cylinders that can store up to six million barrels of oil. Next is the loading dock, where on a typical day 350,000 barrels of oil are pumped on to specialised tanker vessels for transport to Turkey, Germany, Italy, France and China. Last on the tour is Essider's administration building. The 1960s style structure is the nucleus of an operation that involves 450 people--including customs, immigration, security, police officers and employees of Waha Oil Co., which owns the terminal.

The captain, a 1972 graduate of Kings Point Academy in New York State, is old enough to remember the days when American oil companies dominated his country's petroleum sector and Libya was producing 3.7m barrels per day (bpd). But that was before the Berlin disco attack and the downing of the PanAm flight over Lockerbie, following which United Nations sanctions turned Libya into an international pariah.

Most of the world's oil giants left Libya, though a few Europeans--including Italy's Agip and French energy conglomerate Total stayed on despite the sanctions. Now, with the doors open once again, the world's oil energy giants are tripping over each other in a race to get a piece of the action.

These include well-known multinationals like Occidental Petroleum, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, as well as overseas firms like Brazil's Petrobras, Canada's Verenex, Japan's Nippon Oil and Russia's Gazprom. And with good reason; Libya possesses 3.11% of the world's total oil reserves. At the end of 2008, current proven and recoverable oil reserves were estimated at 43.7bn barrels, up from z9.5bn barrels in 1997. In 2008 Libya's production came to around 1.8m bpd, translating into annual oil revenues of $46bn, or about $7,900 per citizen--roughly the same per-capita amount as Saudi Arabia.

Libya's gas reserves are estimated at 1.5 trillion cubic metres, the fourth-largest in Africa and o.8% of total world proven reserves. In addition, Libya is believed to possess at least 3.o trillion cubic metres of unproven reserves. In 1971, Libya became the second country in the world to export liquefied natural gas...

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