Libya talks up local workforce

As Libya’s production levels grow closer to pre-conflict levels, the country’s refining operations are coming back online with or without the help and guidance of foreign partners.

As international firms have continued to weigh costs, benefits and risks of returning to Libya at pre-conflict levels, the country’s Transitional National Council (TNC) and energy sector are sending the message that while foreign partners are welcome, they may not necessarily be needed.

Recent reports from Libyan media have claimed a near return to pre-conflict production levels, while refinery output is ramped up to 110,000 barrels per day at the Zawiya refinery and 30,000 bpd at the Sarir and el-Brega facilities. Upstream production is said to be around 1.35 million bpd – 70% of pre-conflict levels – and this is presented as proof of local capabilities, with the Tripoli Times boasting that all facilities are being manned by domestic engineers and staff. Meanwhile, the country’s largest refinery, Ras Lanuf, is scheduled to be up and running in a few months, with Libya Business News reporting that it aims to double its capabilities within four years.

These reports come as many international firms, including BP, weigh their options for a return to the country after political violence forced the evacuation of foreign staff early in 2011.
Speaking on the topic recently, BP’s press officer, Robert Wine, said security for all staff would need to be assured before the company resumed work in Libya. While both sides of the conflict aimed to avoid damaging the country’s energy sector, much of Libya’s downstream efforts were reportedly damaged to varied degrees during the fighting, including direct attacks and mines left in the area surrounding the vital production centers.

The TNC faces the challenge of rebuilding energy firms’ confidence in the country’s security and working partnerships, while allowing for greater involvement of local workers in its energy sector.
As it brings production back online in the coming weeks and months, the government is expected to push for more training and hiring of local staff, especially those who took part in the anti-government campaign. Presenting the country’s workforce as capable of taking on such a task, something seen in local press reports, is vital to demonstrating their abilities to international partners.
If the country’s new government does not succeed in increasing this type of participation, there is potential for a return to protests from unemployed or underemployed workers and political opposition.

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