Libya Update

Libya Update

On Sunday, June 17th, the Libyan National Army (LNA) announced a “major offensive” will begin in the Sirte Basin to regain control of oil terminals in Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra, two terminals of vital strategic importance.[1] This announcement comes after militias led by the head of the Petroleum Facilities Guard, Ibrahim Jadhran, led attacks on the oil terminals on Thursday, June 14th.[2] General Haftar is backed by the LNA and controls most of eastern Libya, where a majority of Libya’s oil fields are located. This is not the first time the ownership of the oil terminals has switched; Jadran’s forces controlled them  from 2011 until the the Islamic State took control in 2015.  As a response, the LNA took control in September of 2016[3]. Following the militia attacks, 28 people were reported dead. The National Oil Corporation (NOC) said it stopped exporting oil from Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra following the attacks.

Any further violence over these oil terminals will create more danger not only for locals but also for the integrity of the state. Mustafa Sanallah gravely stated that a national disaster would occur if oil exports remained at a standstill for an extended period of time.[4] With the largest proven oil reserves on the African continent, Libya relies on this commodity for 95% of its export revenues.[5] In 1970, under Muammar Gaddafi, Libya exported approximately over 3.6 billion barrels per day (bpd). Following the 2011 uprisings, oil production fell to 1.6 bpd and by the end of 2017 the state produced 1 million bpd.[6] A member of OPEC, Libya, along with Nigeria, are exempt from production cuts through 2018.[7]

The uncertainty of the Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra oil terminals will continue to contribute to instability and vulnerability throughout the state. Oil is money; money is power. The faction that can maintain both control and steady exports from any oil terminal, not limited to Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra, will have greater bargaining power and influence. In Libya, the war is not only over legitimacy but oil as well.


[1] Al Jazeera. “Libya: Haftar Forces Launch Push against Militia in Oil Crescent.” Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 18 June 2018,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Lewis, Aidan. “How Unstable Is Libya’s Oil Production?” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 5 Mar. 2018,

[4] Al Jazeera. “Libya: Haftar Forces Launch Push against Militia in Oil Crescent.” Al Jazeera.

[5] “Libya.” OPEC : Libya,

[6] “The Battle for Libya’s Oil, The Atlantic.” The Energy Consulting Group,

[7]  Lewis, Aidan. “How Unstable Is Libya’s Oil Production?” Reuters, Thomson Reuters.