Quick primer on Libyan oil

Libya produced 1.65 mb/d of crude oil in Oct. 2010 and exported 1.2 mb/d crude in 2008. Both crude production and exports have recently peaked.

Libya is a maturing oil province in which 27 Gb have been produced, out of an estimated ultimate of 40-60 Gb. Therefore, the depletion midpoint has been reached or will be reached in this decade. Due to the low population (6.5 million) and a local consumption of petroleum products of just 250 kb/d Libya will remain an oil exporter for a long time to come even when taking into account population growth and higher per capita consumption rates. However, we do not know to which extent the current unrest will impact on future oil production.

Libyan oil exports 2009 to:


Italy:                425 kb/d

Germany:        178 kb/d

France:            133 kb/d

Spain:              115 kb/d

US:                    80 kb/d






1955   Petroleum Law, entry of British and American oil companies

1957   First oil discovery: light crude in Zelten, Sirte basin

1959   Discoveries: Amal 4.5 Gb,  Beda 1 Gb, Nasser 1 Gb

1961   BP finds remote giant Serir field, 5 Gb

1960   Discovery Defa 2 Gb

1961:  Discovery Gialo 3.5 Gb, Sarir 6 Gb, Waha 1 Gb

1962   Libya joins OPEC

1965   Discovery Augila-Nafoora 2 Gb

1967:   Discovery Intisar 2.25 Gb

1967   Libyan oil gains strategic importance after 6-day war

1968   Discovery Bu Attifel 1.5 Gb

1969   King Idris ousted by by Colonel Gaddafi

1970   Oil production peak at 3.3 mb/d

1970s  Nationalisation of oil industry results in production decline

1973   OPEC embargo on oil exports

1977   War with Egypt

1978   War with Chad starts (Aouzou strip, until 1987)

1980s  OPEC quotas introduced, quota is now 1.5 mb/d

1986   US aerial attack

1988   Pan Am explodes over Lockerbie

1993   UN sanctions banning import of refinery equipment,  1996 US trade sanctions

2002   Oil output increased due to an international re-orientation

2004   Tony Blair shakes hands with Gaddafi, US sanctions lifted

2008   Libya-Italy friendship treaty ($5 bn compensation from Italy for colonial occupation)

Map of oil fields

From: http://www.iea.org/textbase/nppdf/free/2005/weo2005.pdf page 446

This production profile is the result of nationalisation, embargos, sanctions and many other disruptive events

Refinery at Ras Lanuf (220 kb/d)

Ras Lanuf township http://www.panoramio.com/photo/27120995


Oil reserve history (BP Statistical Review) and cumulative production (27.4 Gb in 2009)

How unrealistic the above official reserve data are is shown in the following creaming curves by Jean Laherrere using IHS  and Wood Mackenzie discoveries pointing towards ultimates of between 40  Gb and 60 Gb. ASPO (Colin Campbell) has an ultimate of 55 Gb which would mean the depletion mid-point is reached in 2011.


Bu Attifel oil field

Past and future production by http://www.energyfiles.com/afrme/libya.html


Links to further reading:

IEA World Energy Outlook 2005 has chapter 14 on the Libyan energy sector (page 433) with


ASPO Newsletter #34 October 2003 item 252 on Libya


EIA Country Analysis Brief


Eni field trip, Libya, 2004