By Essam Mohamed
Libyan Minister of Oil Abdulbari al-Arusi on Thursday (November 29th) held a meeting with the local council in Benghazi to discuss the management of the region’s oil resources and address political calls for federalism.
The ministry is suggesting the separation of the National Oil Corporation’s exploration and production capacities from refining.
“We, in the oil and gas ministry, have a short-term plan for the region, which is the establishment of a new corporation to engage in industrial operations, whether in oil refining or petrochemicals, to be called the National Corporation for Oil Refining and Petrochemicals Industry,” the National Oil Corporation website cited al-Arusi as saying.
The National Corporation for the Exploration and Production of Oil and Gas would be based in Tripoli. Both corporations would be affiliated to the Oil and Gas Ministry and would have offices in Tripoli and Benghazi.
Al-Arusi explained the role of the National Corporation for Oil Refining and Petrochemicals Industry. The new company would oversee all existing oil-related companies, build new projects and secure funds. A branch in the western region would be established. Al-Arusi expected the total cost of these projects to be about 45 billion dinars.
Al-Arusi added that a company specialised in mechanical constructions would also be created in Benghazi to compete against international companies specialised in this field. It would be run by experienced, scientifically-qualified national cadres known for their integrity. It would have offices at most oil fields and oil ports.
Benghazi would also be the site for a middle size institute similar to Tripoli’s oil institute. It would accommodate students wishing to pursue oil-related studies.
Al-Arusi added that the Higher Petroleum Institute in Tobruk, which was closed by the former regime for unknown reasons, would be re-opened to graduate thousands of specialised engineering cadres to supervise oil operations in the future.
Thousands of people demonstrated in Benghazi last week demanding the return of the National Oil Corporation, as well as other companies.
The Benghazi local council welcomed the proposals. Al-Arusi announced that he would submit his programme to the prime minister.
“If approved, they would be among the proposals that the government will be submitting to the legislative council so the necessary funds can be provided and we can start working soon, God willing,” the minister added.
Oil expert Fateh Belhaj is critical of the oil and gas ministry, noting that the private sector would be better suited for the task.
“If the private sector is encouraged and supported, it will significantly help overcome these problems and create many job opportunities,” he said.
“I think we must understand that oil is a sovereign wealth, and we have to enable all Libyans to enjoy it. If it becomes restricted to the east or west, I warn against the marginalisation of the south which includes huge amounts of oil and gas.” agreed Ali Saad, another oil engineer.
Faouzi al-Hasnaoui, an employee of the oil sector, noted that oil wealth in Libya contributes to the country’s national income. “The state and government must ensure a fair distribution of wealth, projects and companies so all areas can enjoy the country’s wealth and avoid federalism.”
“If the country stabilises, security improves, and weapons disappear, foreign companies will come to invest in the oil sector,” said journalist Miftah Belaid. “Many job opportunities will be created all over the country for competent young people, experienced cadres and workers.”
“These demands [of federalism] will just disappear,” he added.