By Charles Kennedy
ISIS militants once again attacked key oil infrastructure in Libya. The Ras Lanuf port on the Mediterranean Coast, one of Libya’s largest oil export terminals, was the target of yet another attack by ISIS this week.
Earlier this month, ISIS attacked and set fire to seven oil storage tanks at the port. Early reports say that the latest attacks have also resulted in huge plumes of black smoke emanating from the port.
ISIS also targeted oil pipelines that travel from the Amal oilfield to the port of Es Sider, which is located near Ras Lanuf.
ISIS, at this point, does not have the manpower to take over large swathes of territory in Libya in the same way that it has done in Iraq and Syria. But the group is hoping to sow chaos in Libya and prevent the rival government factions from establishing control in the country.
Libya’s oil production is down to about 400,000 barrels per day, which is only about one-quarter of the country’s capacity. Before the civil war and the downfall of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Libya was producing 1.6 million barrels per day.
The ports of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider have been offline since late 2014. Libya’s ability to ramp up production and oil exports largely hinges on maintaining security at these ports and getting them back into operation. But before that can happen, the rival governments in the eastern and western parts of the country will need to reach a political accord and some sort of power-sharing agreement.
For now, Libya’s oil output will remain low. But there is a chance that at some point it will be able to bring capacity back to the oil markets.