x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Oil price spikes as Libya warns unrest will hit supply

Protesters in Libya are threatening the country's oil supply, driving the global price of crude ever higher.

RIYADH // The price of oil spiked on global markets as protests in Libya escalated and Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, the son of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, warned that crude exports would halt if protestors have their way.

Protesters in the Libyan capital Tripoli stormed public buildings including the state television building, setting it on fire, according to AFP. Anti-government demonstrators have already taken control of the eastern city of Benghazi, several protesters said.

Brent crude oil futures for April delivery rose as much as $2.08, or 2 per cent, to $104.60 a barrel on London's ICE Futures Europe exchange.

Mr Qaddafi, who appeared on state TV on Sunday night, said: "Today we are at a crossroads ... We either say we're Libyans, we want reform, real democracy" and "instead of weeping over 84 dead people, we will weep over hundreds of thousands of dead. Rivers of blood will flow ... Oil will stop. Foreign companies will leave Libya tomorrow."

He added: "This oil will be burnt. Thugs, criminals, gangs and tribes will burn it."

Workers at one Libyan oilfield, Al Nafoora, went on strike in protest against the government, according to Al Jazeera television. Royal Dutch Shell, meanwhile, said it has temporarily evacuated the families of expat workers in Libya.

BP suspended exploration work in the Libyan Desert and shares of Eni, the biggest foreign producer in the country, dropped.

BP, which has no producing assets in the country, is evacuating families and non-essential staff, spokesman David Nicholas said today.

Shokri Ghanem, chairman of Libya's National Oil Corportion, said he had no information about a disruption in production of crude.

OMV AG, Austria's largest oil company, dropped as much as 4 per cent in Vienna. OMV produced 34,000 barrels a day in Libya in the first nine months of 2010, making this OMV's third-biggest production country after Romania and Austria.

Statoil ASA, the Norwegian energy producer, has closed its offices in Tripoli. Statoil participates in land-based oil production and exploration activities in the Mabruk field, operated by Total, and in the Murzuk basin, operated by Repsol.

Libya, a member of Opec, produces 1.7 million barrels per day of oil, most of which is exported to Europe.

Yemen, another oil exporter, is also experiencing unrest.

Opec maintains about 6 million barrels per day of spare oil production capacity, mostly in Saudi Arabia, and has a long-standing policy to meet global demand in the event of a supply disruption.

Yousef al Furaidan, manager of production at one of Saudi Arabia's largest oilfields, said: "Anything we can produce to the world market we will not hesitate to produce it ... We are very confident we can keep the market balanced with our rate."

Saudi Arabia pumps 8.4 million barrels daily, and has about 4 million to spare.

tashby@thenational.ae

with Reuters