* Could open new licensing round in July, August
* Split of powers between NOC, ministry unresolved
* Says no plans for Benghazi to control oil revenues
By Emma Farge
VIENNA, Dec 13 Libya plans to improve the terms
for foreign oil firms ahead of its next licensing round and
could begin seeking bids in the third quarter of 2013, the OPEC
member's new oil minister said.
OPEC member Libya has reserves of over 40 billion barrels,
but analysts have warned that some of the toughest terms in the
business could act as a deterrent for companies, some of which
have yet to return after the 2011 civil war.
Abdelbari al-Arusi, in charge of the ministry for just a
month, said he has made it a top priority to consult with
foreign oil firms on how to make the country more attractive.
"I've met different people from foreign companies, and they
are complaining about EPSA IV (the last round of Exploration and
Production Sharing Agreements), like Shell for instance. For
EPSA V, there will be better conditions," Arusi said.
"I would say August or maybe July we will start looking for
bids," he added, without providing further details of the
In the last bidding round, after the government in 2004
opened up territory that had been off-limits for years, oil
companies scrambled for deals and accepted some of the
industry's tightest exploration and production terms.
In an interview with Reuters last week, Arusi said Libya
could see another licensing round within the 15-month term of
the interim government, adding "it depends on the situation here
in Libya". Other senior oil officials previously
said there would be no new deals for at least a year.
Africa's third largest oil producer has boosted output
faster than many analysts expected to around 1.5-1.6 million
barrels per day after the civil war, and the focus is now
shifting to expanding exploration of its vast desert acreage.
Royal Dutch Shell suspended drilling and abandoned
exploration on two Libya blocks due to disappointing results, it
said in May, while other firms are wary about resuming
exploration because of concerns about safety.
Arusi, speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of his first
OPEC meeting in Vienna, said no decision has been made on
carving up responsibilities between the new oil ministry and the
National Oil Corporation, headed by Nuri Berruien.
The hydrocarbons sector, which accounts for around 90
percent of government revenue, was run by the NOC before the
revolution, and its former head, Shokri Ghanem, represented
Libya at OPEC.
In a sign that the oil ministry under Arusi could become
more assertive, he said he would give final approval to 2013
crude oil contracts worth around $50 billion.
He added that the ministry would also assess feedback from
Libya's clients that its light, sweet crude oil had been priced
above the market in 2012.
"I've heard complaints. We're going to look at that," he
One of the other major challenges faced by Arusi will be how
to respond to demands from Libya's oil-rich east to gain more
control over the hydrocarbons sector.
Arusi has announced a proposal to separate Libya's
exploration and production activities from refining, by creating
two separate NOC bodies that would be based in Tripoli and
The capital would be the headquarters for an exploration and
production company, and a separate company headquartered in
Benghazi would deal with refining and petrochemicals.
Asked if there were any plans to give the Benghazi branch of
the NOC autonomy over its oil revenues, he said: "Not oil, no.
The plan is to have a body responsible for refining and
(additional reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian in Tripoli;
editing by Jane Baird)