A second crude oil tank was set on fire Sunday at the Libyan port of Ras Lanuf, during fighting between rival factions for control of two key export terminals. As a result, storage capacity at Ras Lanuf has been cut by 400,000 barrels, according to Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC).
NOC, namely, confirmed the loss of storage tanks 12 and 2 at the Ras Lanuf port terminal, following Thursday’s and Sunday’s armed assault respectively, which reduced storage capacity at Ras Lanuf from 950,000 barrels to 550,000 barrels.
The NOC warned that the blaze that broke out at storage tank No. 2 could spread to three further tanks, which would “stop exports from Ras Lanuf port completely”. This would significantly affect Libya’s oil industry, which has noted some recovery over the last two years, despite continuing political turmoil, according to Reuters.
Fighting over Ras Lanuf and the neighboring oil port of Es Sider began on Thursday, when an armed force opposed to Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) stormed the terminals, according to Reuters.
The attack led the NOC to shut the ports and evacuate its workers, declaring force majeure on exports. Both terminals had been badly damaged in previous fighting, but had resumed operations after the LNA took control of them in September 2016.
Prior to the attack, Ras Lanuf operated five crude oil storage tanks. The destruction oSecond fire shrinks storage capacity amid fighting at Libyan oil portsf tank 2 is in danger of leaking and spreading the blaze to reservoirs 1, 6 and 3, NOC said in a statement.
NOC calls again for the immediate withdrawal of Ibrahim Jhadran and his gangs from the port, cessation of military operations and the provision of support and assistance to fire-fighting teams trying to reach the tanks still ablaze. This incident will result in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in construction costs, and billions in lost sales opportunities. Rebuilding the tanks may take years, especially in current security circumstances. NOC applauds the heroes whom risking their lives to save the livelihood of the Libyan people.
Jathran had controlled and blockaded the ports before losing them to the LNA two years ago. He has said he wants to overturn the “injustice” exacted by the LNA on residents of the oil crescent since then.
Haftar took full control of Benghazi late last year, after a three year military campaign named “Operation Dignity” against Islamists and other opponents.