Libya May Permanently Split Oil Ministry, NOC Roles - Spokesman

LONDON (Dow Jones Newswires), Sep. 8, 2011

Libya is considering permanently dividing roles in its state oil sector between a ministry overseeing policies and a commercially competitive National Oil Co., a spokesman for a company subsidiary said Thursday.

Such a move could be good news for foreign oil investors as they return to the war-torn nation, since it could remove bureaucratic hurdles.

"There is a discussion" on making NOC a commercial entity separate from the ministry, said Abdul Jalil Mayouf, a spokesman for the Arabian Gulf Oil Co, or Agoco, the largest fully-owned NOC subsidiary. "There is no decision but that's the general trend."

Under the previous regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi, Libya's policies and the management of state-owned operations were concentrated in the hands of the head of NOC.

But the rebel National Transitional Council, which seized the capital Tripoli last month, has its own oil minister, Ali Tarhoni, along with a separate NOC head, Nuri Berruien. And the rebel council is now considering to make such division permanent and more deeply entrenched.

Mayouf said Libya, until now, was the only member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries not to have a NOC head and oil minister.

On the other hand, NOC managers "are asking for more freedom" in dealing with foreign partners, he said.

"We operate in a competitive environment so we shouldn't be managed like an administration, a bureaucratic tool," Mayouf added.

The newly found assertiveness of Benghazi, the largest city in eastern Libya and the uprising's epicenter, could also be reflected in a new-look oil sector. "There is a great debate over the presence of NOC in Tripoli," Mayouf said. "We would like it to be in Benghazi."

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