More attacks on Libya’s oil facilities are likely unless a United Nations-backed unity government is approved, the head of Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) said on Monday.
Mustafa Sanalla said that suspected Islamic State militants had staged their latest attack against Libya’s oil infrastructure late Thursday or Friday, setting fire to one production tank and damaging another at the Fida oil field.
Fida lies south-west of the oil terminals of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, where militants launched repeated assaults and inflicted major damage last month.
Total current production stands at 360,000-370,000 barrels per day, he said, which is less than a quarter of the 1.6 million bpd that Libya was producing before the uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Islamic State has been making inroads in Libya following setbacks in its strongholds in Syria and Iraq.
The group has taken control of the city of Sirte and has developed a presence in the city of Ajdabiya, both close to the terminals that were attacked in January.
The militants have also become increasingly assertive in Sabratah, which is close to a western Libyan oil and gas terminal partly owned by Italy’s Eni S. p. A., Libyan and Western security officials said.
Early last year, the extremist group claimed attacks on several oil fields in central Libya, with the damage forcing France’s Total SA to book a write down on one of the targeted facilities.
U.S. officials said they suspect the group is trying to replicate a strategy of attacks against the oil industry already applied in Syria and Iraq.
In western Iraq, Islamic State’s predecessor, Islamic State of Iraq, initially sabotaged and attacked oil fields and pipelines.
Once the facilities became less valuable as they got damaged and risky to protect, the group took control of the assets.