Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Islamic State sets oil storage tanks onf fire at Ras Lanuf Libya

The Islamic State(IS) has launched more attacks on oil terminals, this time at the Ras Lanauf — sometimes spelled Ras Lanuf or Ras Lanouf — export terminal. Four more oil tanks have been set on fire.

The chair of the Tripoli-based National Oil Company, Mustafa Sanalla, described the resulting fires as a disaster. As many as three million barrels of oil could be set on fire. Obviously, IS is not seeking to use the oil facilities as a source of revenue. They are seeking to deprive the Libyan new UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA), or the two rivals, the internationally-recognized House of Representatives (HoR) based in Tobruk or the western-based General National Congress (GNC) of any revenue from oil.
Sanalla claimed firemen had been unable to reach the fires because of battles between the Islamic State fighters and the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) militia led by Ibrahim Jadhran. The Libyan National Army commanded by Khalifa Haftar appear not to be involved as Jadhran is at odds with Haftar. Mustafa claimed that for much of the day tanks 5, 9, 10 and 12 had burned unchecked. Sanalla was angry at this further loss, as the NOC had hired a Greek tanker to remove the 490,000 barrels of oil that remained at the tank farm.
Jadhran refused to allow the tanker to load the oil. Jadrahn has shut down Ras Lanauf, along with other export terminals he controls at Sidra, Brega, and Zuetina for most of the last two years. He insists only tankers registered with the rival eastern-based National Oil Company be allowed to load oil. So far the international community has refused to deal with the break-away company. However, recently Egypt signed a contract with the eastern company even as the new GNA comes into being which will insist on having a monopoly of oil exports, I expect. The NOC said that the situation in Ras Lanauf was catastrophic for the environment.
Reports about the situation do not yet give a clear picture of what happened. It is unclear whether the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) were able to repel the attackers. After the January 4 attack on Sidra's main checkpoint the PFG claimed to have regained control of the port. However, IS published a photo, that showed a heavily-armed terrorist standing behind what they claimed was an undamaged tank at the Sidra tank complex.
Bloomberg reports Sanalla as saying that up to three million barrels of crude oil are at risk of being burnt and that the attacks had destroyed electricity towers and cables supporting industrial areas and residencies. This may include oil at sites other than Ras Lanauf. Another source claims there are 13 storage tanks at Ras Lanauf with a capacity of 6.5 million barrels. Bloomberg reports on Libyan oil production: It’s now the smallest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, producing 362,000 barrels a day.The Wall Street journal claims that Libya’s contribution to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries was just 0.06 percent in 2015. While loss of production from Libya may not have all that much effect on the global oil market the loss of revenue could be disastrous for an already suffering Libyan economy. The Islamic State attacks will generate even more pressure from the international community for Libyans to support the new UN-brokered Government of National Accord.

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