The head of French oil company Total’s Libyan joint venture called for the formerly all-powerful National Oil Corp (NOC) to act more as a regulator and leave smaller companies with more operational independence, cutting red tape.
“NOC should retain the role of regulator and more authority should be given to individual operators,” Ahmed M. Abulsayen, chairman of the Operators’ Committee, told Reuters in an interview.
He said optimizing NOC’s role was a key issue for the sector and red tape had to be cut to allow greater efficiency.
The government ministry in charge of oil should be responsible for some functions the NOC previously carried out such as issuing new bidding rounds and concluding contracts, he said.
“These privileges are all state authorities that should be separated,” he said, adding that bureaucracy needed to be trimmed to speed up processes.
“The new government, transitional or future, will have to take part of the load of tasks from the NOC. That goes without saying,” he added.
Total’s offshore Al-Jurf field is currently pumping around 41,500 barrels per day of oil, not far off full capacity of 50,000 bpd.
The first cargo of crude to be pumped from Al-Jurf since the outbreak of war will not be exported this week, but sent to a domestic refinery near the capital instead, Abulsayen said.
The first tanker would sail with just under half a million barrels of crude, and stop off at Mellitah on its way to the Zawiya refinery, where it would load an additional quarter of a million barrels from the terminal.
Exports remained complicated by sky-high shipping insurance rates, he said, adding there remained confusion over which waters were part of the war zone decreed by NATO and the transitional government needed to take action in order for operations to return to normality.
The main obstacle preventing foreign workers from returning, Abulsayen said, was the difficulty in obtaining visas, navigating customs and a lack of shipping agencies willing to operate in the area.
Total’s second field near Sirte, where fighting continues, remained offline as the danger of attacks persists and was unlikely to begin producing anytime soon, as it feeds into the Waha system and badly damaged oil terminal Es-Sider.
A team of locals remained close by, he said, but had been unable to prevent looting and supporting infrastructure from being destroyed.
“We never left the field alone,” said Abulsayen.
Key activities to maintain the condition of the offshore field were undertaken illegally and independently from NOC to avert the risk of a catastrophic spill, Abulsayen said.
“We operated out of Zarzis [Tunisia] without a mandate” said Abulsayen, adding that two missions had been put in place without the official approval from NOC, as the state oil companies was overloaded with other tasks.
The potential magnitude of spill at Al-Jurf could have caused a disaster ten times the scale of Macondo, in the Gulf of Mexico, he said, as offshore fields can be dangerous if the condition of facilities is allowed to deteriorate.
Abulsayen added that efforts made during the height of the conflict had enabled Total to restart operations rapidly.
“Off shore fields are a hostile environment and it was the result of our collective efforts over eight months that we were able to make a speedy return to production,” he said.