By Zainab Calcuttawala
The Benghazi-based government in Libya walked away from a process that would have unified the country’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) on Wednesday after the Benghazi Defense Brigades gained control over major oil ports in the Oil Crescent over the past couple of weeks.
The Es Sider and Ras Lanuf ports had been in the hands of the NOC in Tripoli since the Libyan National Army (LNA) took captured the area in September.
The BDB wrested control of the key facilities in early March, but new reports suggest the LNA has regained lost ground. On Tuesday, the LNA claimed to have retaken the country’s key oil ports of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider from the rival faction and, as of Tuesday afternoon, the resurgent group’s soldiers were still in pursuit of a handful of BDB fighters, who were on the run after they lost control of the ports.
The fighting between the LNA and BDB has so far been limited to Ras Lanuf and Es Sider.
One office of the NOC in Benghazi has affiliated itself with the eastern parliament, which rivals the United Nations’ sanctioned Government of National Accord based in Tripoli. International sanctions have prevented the breakaway wing from managing its oil operations separately.
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The LNA is controlled by Khalifa Haftar, a Ghaddafi-era general who has built ties with Moscow over the past six months. The BDB claims to have no alliances, but is widely thought to be a radical Islamist faction. The Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium lists the BDB as an Islamist group formed in opposition to the LNA and consolidating fighters from other factions opposed to General Haftar.
Libya has lost 35,000 barrels per day since the latest clashes broke out in the beginning of March, pulling production down to about 660,000 bpd. Before the latest clashes, Libya was producing around 700,000 barrels of oil daily, with plans to raise this to 1.1 million barrels by the end of the year.
By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com