In fractured Libya, it’s about oil

Map of key oil installations in Libya
Whoever controls the oil terminals has the upper hand in Libya (source: macpixxel for GIS)
  • Libya’s warring factions have largely kept their hands off the oil and gas industry
  • With UN-brokered elections nearing, feuding over oil revenue has started
  • The most active foreign powers, France and Italy, are at odds over the vote’s timing

Oil is Libya’s economic lifeblood, accounting for 82 percent of the country’s exports and 50 percent of its gross domestic product. It provides most of the budget revenue. Before the overthrow of longtime revolutionary leader Moammar Qaddafi in 2011, the country produced 1.6 million barrels per day. Its proven reserves are estimated at 46 billion barrels.

Libya’s oil and gas output has lagged for many years, first because of international sanctions on the Qaddafi regime and later due to disruptive effects of civil war. Now the country needs to explore for new oil fields to replace those nearing maturity. The low production cost and low sulfur content of Libyan oil justify its "sweet crude” appellation, with the extra bonus of proximity to European markets that account for 85 percent of Libya’s exports and 11 percent of its imports.

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