How Libya could change the East Med energy equation - ERDAL TANAS KARAGÖL

How Libya could change the East Med energy equation

Libya could gradually become one of the most important actors in the global energy equation due the rich energy resources it possesses, primarily the country’s vast oil reserves.

Unfortunately, now that oil and natural gas are involved, Libya has become the target of various international actors. As a result, the country has been embroiled in a devastating war since 2014 because of those wanting to topple the legitimate Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) and divide its natural resources among them and carve up the country into pieces.

Following the overt and covert support of many Western and regional countries, primarily the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt, it should come as no surprise that Russia and many EU countries are now intervening on the battlefield in support of warlord Khalifa Haftar in order to secure their share of the pie in the East Mediterranean.

Hence the war in Libya is not just a conflict between the legitimate government and Khalifa Haftar. It has now become an energy war.

But how much oil and natural gas is there in Libya?

A member in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Libya is an oil-rich country in the African continent and an important actor in the energy equation.

Boasting the largest proven oil reserves on the African continent, Libya is among the top 10 countries with the world’s largest oil reserves, with a reserve of 46.4 billion barrels as of 2010.

The country’s oil revenue accounts for 69 percent of Libya’s export earnings. In addition to its oil profits, Libya possesses abundant natural gas resources. Hence petrol and natural gas represent 60 percent of the country’s gross national product (GNP).

During the reign of Muammar Gaddafi, before the Arab Spring, Libya was the world’s biggest oil exporter after Norway and Russia. Countries such as Italy, France, Spain and Germany were among the top importers of Libyan oil.

It is also worth noting that while more than a million barrels per day were produced in the pre-Gaddafi period, this amount is now below 90,000 barrels per day.

The East Mediterranean’s value has skyrocketed

When we take into account the fact that the lion’s share of Libya’s petrol hasn’t yet been discovered and the potential wealth of its seas, the maritime jurisdiction deal it struck with Turkey in a sense renders Libya the most important country in the East Mediterranean. It is now clear as day that the countries drilling petrol in Libya and consuming its resources have no intention to leave it to its own devices.

These are difficult times in which those who want to have a say in Libya’s “oil crescent,” an oil rich area which accounts for 60 percent of Libya’s petrol exports, will do everything in their power to establish a foothold in the country, which could even lead to its disintegration.

The consensus between Ankara and Tripoli could lead other countries to partner up and many already-established partnerships, which the sword of Damocles hangs over, could collapse; additionally, many countries could also switch sides.

Because there’s always the possibility of new maritime agreements being struck in the East Mediterranean.

On the other hand, thanks to the newly-forming partnerships, we can ascertain that the pipe dream called the East Med project, which was planning to transfer newly-discovered natural gas drilled in the East Med to European countries, will be shelved.

Most importantly, Turkey will have a bigger say in determining the routes through which the existing natural gas will be transferred to Europe.


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