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Eni restarts oil production in Libya ahead of schedule

(Xinhua)

10:25, September 28, 2011

ROME, Sept.27 (Xinhua) -- For the first time since unrests erupted in Libya in February, oil wells there operated by Italian petroleum giant Eni and the Libyan state-run National Oil Corp., started producing oil, Eni officials said.

So far, production is modest. As of Tuesday, it totaled some 32,000 barrels per day from 15 separate wells -- just 0.2 percent of pre-war levels. The symbolic restart comes around two months sooner than originally expected.

Eni said more wells could open up in the coming days.

As Libya seeks to rebuild after a bloody insurgency against Muammar Gaddafi, its economic future could depend on the output of its once lucrative oil and natural gas sectors. The country rests atop Africa's largest proven reserves of crude oil.

Experts say it will take one year or more to reach pre-war production levels of 1.6 million barrels per day.

The newly activated wells are located at the Abu-Attifel field, which is around 300 kilometers south of the city of Bengazi.

Analysts say the restarted production is important because the anti-Gaddafi camp convinced Western countries to come to their aid in part by promising that the cost of their help would be offset by oil revenue.

Italy was a reluctant partner in the military initiatives due to its long-standing ties to Gaddafi, and before the war started Eni had been the largest foreign producer of oil in Libya, with production levels that reached 275,000 barrels of oil and equivalents per day.

When that supply was cut off, it resulted in a surge in energy prices in Italy and helped erode support for the Italian government.

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