Reed on Riyadh and Libyan oil; Bloomberg on Libya’s Future

Three quick hits, two of which are shameless plugs:

First is Matt’s article posted today on Middle East Progress. “Riyadh’s Options” explores the possible responses Saudi officials can consider in light of the alleged assassination plot. According to Matt these include: traditional means, like going to the UN, withdrawing ambassadors, and encouraging others to downgrade relations; unique measures like constraining the number of Iranian pilgrims  to the holy places as the Hajj approaches; covert escalation, like supporting Sunni partisans in Syria against Iran’s closest ally, President Assad; and creative measures, like challenging Tehran in Iraq, for instance. The article is speculative–since we can’t really know exactly what measures are being tabled in Riyadh–but it offers balance to the current debate, as many observers are preoccupied with what the United States should do and how Iranian provocations reflect on Obama’s approach to the regime.

Second is an article by Bloomberg’s editors detailing the many issues that must be resolved in Libya now that “liberation” can be declared. Titled “No More Qaddafi, Plenty of Worries for New Libya Leaders,” the article offers data on water, refugees, security, and the status of small arms. Definitely a good introduction for Libya watchers wondering what’s next for the African nation. “Just as Western airpower made possible the rebels’ victory,” the article states, “it will fall on wealthy countries to provide assistance and expertise for the fledgling state.” The next section focuses on money and how the international community must unfreeze Qaddafi’s assets. Thankfully, the one thing Libya does not need is hand-outs, which Western nations–suffering from austerity measures at home–would not be so willing to give. Oil revenues are trending upwards in Libya, although they have yet to match official claims, and the new government may have access to as much as $132 billion–an amount that should make other revolutionary causes jealous. Expertise is cheap.

And third is another article with Matt’s name attached to it, this one published by the Middle East Policy Council in partnership with Foreign Reports, Inc. on October 18. The article, “Libyan Exports Fail to Confirm Production Claims,” offers original analysis and up-to-date data regarding Libya’s oil production. It also highlights the difference between claims made by officials, regional oil officials, and joint ventures. Here’s a snippet:

The Big Picture
Conflicting reports may confuse observers but shipping data and official statements from the National Oil Company (NOC) suggest production is gaining momentum after being shut down from March until September. In an October 3 interview, NOC Chairman Nouri Berouin stated that Libya’s “current production” was 350,000 b/d and that operations at the Zawiya Refinery, with a stated capacity of 120,000 b/d, had begun on October 2 at a rate of 60,000 b/d. Other reports indicate the 20,000 b/d refinery at Tobruk has been operational for weeks. Berouin said that the larger, 220,000 b/d refinery at Ras Lanuf would not restart until output had reached 500,000 b/d, which Berouin estimated would be in “about two months.” He then estimated production would reach 700,000 b/d by the end of the year.

Only a week later, in an interview with Dow Jones on October 10, Berouin refined his estimates and said Libya was now producing 400,000 barrels a day—meaning it had achieved one-quarter of its pre-war output. But he  also scaled back end-of-the-year estimates from 700,000 b/d down to 600,000 b/d. Berouin’s short-term estimate was revised after state-owned AGOCO and a joint-venture with Italy’s ENI proved able to expand production faster than expected. Producing 700,000 b/d by the end of 2011 seems unlikely although Berouin believes Libyan output will top one million b/d early next year, according to an interview with the Associated Press on October 9.

600,000 b/d appears within reach if the 200,000 b/d Sharara field restarts later this month. ENI’s Elephant field has yet to be restored but, once active, it will push Libya’s total production toward the one million b/d mark. The NOC chairman remains convinced that pre-war output of 1.6 million b/d is achievable within “14 to 15 months” as major fields return and minor fields contribute tens of thousands of barrels daily.

Also, the Foreign Reports Bulletin posted by Middle East Policy Council is the first of many to come–MEPC will publish similar materials every month on topics affecting politics and energy in the region. Be sure to check out MEPC’s Commentary section.

(Full disclosure: Matt is a Middle East Specialist for Foreign Reports.)

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