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Libya: A ceaseless campaign

Our report on the country’s energy infrastructure is the definitive guide to Libyan oil, politics, and civil unrest

Blessed with Africa's largest oil reserves and some of the world's highest-quality crude, Libya's energy sector has been disproportionately significant for global markets. When the 2011 revolution decimated output, the International Energy Agency was forced to release emergency stocks. Libyan oil was important.

Production has collapsed again now, to an eighth of the country's 2011 capacity. As Mustafa Sanallah, chairman of the National Oil Corporation told us, the civil war that has been underway since mid-2014 is unmistakably about oil. A battle for installations in the once-prolific Sirte basin is, he fears, imminent.

Events in Libya's fractured energy sector will remain significant for global oil trade. The loss of the country's oil this year may not have prompted any emergency stock releases, but as global supply and demand start to balance, the country's exports will regain significance. In a tighter market, further deterioration in the country will be bullish for prices; but a recovery in output, with the volumes predicted by Sanallah, would weigh heavily on Brent.

After the discovery of oil in Libya in the 1950s, the country's last king, Idris, is said to have wished instead his country had found water. Things would certainly be less complex now. Eventually oil will give Libya the means to rebuild but in the meantime the conflict is getting more dangerous. Under the nose of an international community more focused on efforts to dislodge Islamic State from Sirte, another full-blown war for oil in North Africa may be nearing.

This article is part of a report series on Libya. Articles include:

 

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