Bloomberg News

Libya Appoints Former Eni Veteran Ben Yezza as Oil Minister

November 24, 2011

Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Libya’s newly appointed oil minister headed a commission that oversaw the bidding for exploration rights by international companies and was chairman of a joint venture with Eni SpA in the country.

Abdul-Rahman Ben Yezza was named to an interim cabinet of 24 ministers by the country’s National Transitional Council, Acting Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib said late yesterday.

Ben Yezza previously served as chairman of Eni Oil Co., a partnership with Libya’s National Oil Corp. that explores and produces oil in the North African country, according to a 2007 release on the state-run company’s website. In 2005, he headed the National Oil commission that awarded the rights to drill for oil to companies including Eni and Exxon Mobil Corp.

For Eni “it’s always good to have close contacts with somebody, to already be on close terms,” Samuel Ciszuk, supply- side consultant for KBC Asset Management UK, said in a telephone interview from London. “The fact he had experience in negotiations and co-working with international oil companies and then worked in one of the joint ventures, that is positive.”

Libya is restoring oil and gas production following an uprising that led to the death of the country’s former leader Muammar Qaddafi last month and the capture of his son and heir- apparent Saif al-Islam on Nov. 19.

Armed Rebellion

The country, holder of Africa’s largest reserves, will produce as much as 800,000 barrels of crude a day by year-end, up from 600,000 barrels a day, Nuri Berruien, chair of National Oil, said Nov. 13. It produced about 1.6 million barrels in January, before protests against Qaddafi’s regime flared into an armed rebellion.

Ben Yezza replaced former University of Washington Professor Ali Tarhouni, who headed both the finance and oil ministries and wasn’t appointed to the new cabinet. Aashur bin Khayal was named foreign minister and Osama Jwaili was appointed as defense minister, el-Keib said in a televised press conference outside Tripoli.

Hassan Ziklam was named interim finance minister, Fawzi Adulaali took the interim interior ministry post and Mohammed Ftisi became industry minister, said el-Keib, who retained his position.

Other key Libyan energy officials appointed since the rebellion are:

Nuri Berruien, chairman of National Oil Corp.

He was appointed in early September shortly after the capital Tripoli, where the company’s headquarters is located, was captured by the rebels and several months after his predecessor, Shokri Ghanem, left his post. NOC is the top oil establishment that has for most of the country’s history acted as oil ministry.

NOC’s Benghazi-based subsidiary unit Arabian Gulf Oil Co. took a central role during the conflict, siding with the rebels and questioning the supremacy of NOC. Agoco officials are seeking more independence, highlighting that eastern Libya contains most of the country’s crude.

“We are not making any plans as far as restructuring of NOC,” Berruien said in an Oct. 15 interview. When matters stabilize, “we can review the structure of the oil industry as a whole, whether to have a separate oil ministry or that NOC should remain as it is.”

Berruien met with top oil executives, such as the head of Occidental Petroleum Corp., and ambassadors to discuss boosting crude output and the return of foreign staff. He has said that no new deals have been or will be signed with international companies until after the transitional period.

“My personal opinion is that there should be no licensing rounds during the transitional period,” he said. “This is something that the Libyan people should decide on. When there is a parliament, then they could decide how to offer concessions.”

Omar Shakmak, acting deputy oil minister

Libyan oil companies will be given more freedom, with NOC merely responsible for evaluating their plans and not executing them, Shakmak told Reuters in an interview on Oct. 10. The oil ministry will not take over any of the strategy or planning responsibilities currently held by NOC, he said.

Ahmed Majbri, chairman of Arabian Gulf Oil Co., or Agoco

He heads the largest single crude producer in Libya, whose managers announced they were splitting from the parent company NOC after they sided with the rebels against Qaddafi’s regime in February. Throughout the uprising when Libya faced international sanctions, company managers were in charge of arranging the purchase of fuel, guarding oil facilities and supervising the resumption of output.

Abdeljalil Mayuf, information manager and spokesman at Agoco

He is part of a team that coordinates with field engineers and other company officials to stay abreast on the conditions of oil fields and adjacent infrastructure that were a target of attacks by Qaddafi’s forces. After fighting ended in areas under the control of the NTC, its output is expected to reach pre- conflict level of 425,000 barrels a day by February, Mayuf said.

Mayuf is a champion of developing Libya’s gas potential, which has so far been neglected, and upgrading the country’s downstream sector to decrease its reliance on imported products. Libya imports about 50 percent of its gasoline needs. He also believes the energy sector should be decentralized, with NOC units having more independence from their parent company.

“NOC was like an empire under the former regime,” Mayuf said in an Oct. 26 interview in Benghazi. “We used to revert back to them for any minor decision, such as buying equipment or hiring someone.” “But now, it will be difficult for NOC to have that centralized role as before.”

Yosef Gherryo, manager in charge of marketing affairs

He is part of a team that handled Libya’s oil product purchases throughout the conflict. Agoco imported about 1.8 million metric tons of gasoline, gasoil, diesel, liquefied petroleum gas and fuel oil, in the period from April until Mid- October, Gherryo said in an Oct. 16 interview in Benghazi. Agoco expects to import 200,000 tons of oil products until mid- November when its parent company NOC takes over, he said.

Najmi Krayem, chairman of Mellitah Oil & Gas BV

He was appointed head of the company after the capital Tripoli fell in late August in the hands of rebels seeking the ouster of Qaddafi. The company operates some fields belonging to Eni and NOC, such as the Abu Attifel and Rimal fields. He will oversee the company’s return to full crude and natural gas production of 600,000 barrels a day. He will also handle the supply of gas for the Greenstream pipeline to Italy from its Sabratha offshore platform.

Abdulwahab Elnaami, chairman of Harouge Oil Operations

He is leading the joint venture between state-owned NOC and PetroCanada, which is expected to reach its full output of 100,000 barrels a day by year-end.

Bashir Alashab, chairman of Waha Oil Co.

A joint venture between NOC, and U.S. companies ConocoPhillips , Marathon Oil Corp. and Hess Corp. He has come under fire from a group of company employees, demanding that he be removed for collaborating with Qaddafi’s forces during the conflict, according to Reuters.

Fathi Issa, chairman of Sirte Oil Co.

Libya restarted eastern gas fields to supply its larger power plants to reduce the need for imported diesel, Issa told Reuters Sept. 23.

Ahmed Shawki, general manager for marketing at NOC

He was part of a delegation attending the Gas Exporting Countries Forum in Doha, Qatar, earlier this month. He said Nov. 14 that NOC plans to meet potential buyers in Istanbul this month to seek agreement on terms for long-term oil contracts for supplies for next year.

--Editors: Raj Rajendran, Rob Verdonck.

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Tuttle in Doha at rtuttle@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:


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