Libya to resume gas exports to Italy by December

13 October 2011, Sweetcrude, Tripoli – Libya will resume large natural gas exports to Italy by early December at the latest, following the preliminary restart of the Greenstream pipeline Thursday, the North African country’s top oil official said.

The gradual resumption of the pipeline operations–which shut down in February, providing a hit to Italy’s natural gas needs–is the latest example of Libyan hydrocarbons returning to global markets.

In an interview, Nuri Berruien, chairman of Libya’s National Oil Company, said “major exports will come at the end of November or early December at the latest.”

Before the war, the 520-kilometre pipeline exported 26 million cubic metres a day of natural gas from Libya to Italy, according to the International Energy Agency.

Following the first testing Thursday of the facility, which is jointly owned by NOC and Italy’s Eni SpA, current flows stand at 3 million cubic meters a day. Only “small quantities” will go to Italy for now, Berruien said.

Natural gas going through Greenstream currently comes from Eni’s Wafa field, which produces mainly for domestic needs.

To reach large export levels, the pipeline will need supply from the Bahr Essalam field, which Berruien said will be operational by the end of November.

The restart of Libya’s gas exports pipeline comes after oil fields resumed production last month, after ex-dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi was deposed in August.

According to BP’s statistical review–a reference on the matter–Libya has 54.7 billion cubic feet of proved reserves in natural gas. That makes it the fourth largest natural gas reserves holder in Africa after Nigeria, Algeria and Egypt.

Libyan oil production reached 400,000 barrels a day this week. The next large field expected to come back on line, the field where Repsol SA is a partner, is due to restart by the end of the month, Berruien said.

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