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Financial Times: BP in talks with Libya over gas deal

Financial Times: BP in talks with Libya over gas deal: “The BP talks follow a similar deal struck with Libya by Royal Dutch Shell, the Anglo-Dutch group, in May. Shell is exploring for gas in the Sirte Basin…”: Friday 6 January 2006
By Roula Khalaf and Thomas Catan
Published: January 6 2006
BP has entered into negotiations with Libya over a multi-billion dollar natural gas exploration and development agreement as the former pariah state opens up more aggressively to international oil investment.
Industry insiders say the discussions are at an early stage and involve a liquefied natural gas project that could supply the North American or European markets. BP confirmed it was in talks with Libya but declined to discuss details. “We are continuing to look for opportunities in Libya and when we have a substantive agreement we hope to be able to announce it,” the company said.
Libya's oil and gas sector was opened up for wider foreign investment after the crisis caused by the 1988 Lockerbie bombing was resolved and United Nations sanctions were lifted. US businesses were allowed to return in 2004 after Libya agreed to dismantle its nuclear weapons programme.
The BP talks follow a similar deal struck with Libya by Royal Dutch Shell, the Anglo-Dutch group, in May. Shell is exploring for gas in the Sirte Basin, where BP held assets before they were nationalised in the 1970s. Under its agreement, Shell will also revamp a liquefaction plant in Libya and sell the LNG in the US and Europe. US companies have been returning to the Libyan market where they held oil production concessions that had to be surrendered to Libya in 1986 after a US bombing campaign. Last month ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil and Amerada Hess agreed to pay Libya $1.8bn (£1bn) to reclaim assets in Oasis Group.
Last month, ExxonMobil signed an agreement with Libya to begin exploring offshore for oil and gas and will soon begin to gather seismic data in the Cyrenaica Basin.
Analysts said any agreement with Libya would be positive for BP, which is looking to further expand its LNG business. However, any agreement could take months to come to fruition and the Libyans are understood to be driving a hard bargain.
Frank Harris, LNG analyst at Wood Mackenzie, said: “From a BP perspective, Libya would provide additional supply to their portfolio and could go into some combination of the US, UK, Spain and possibly Italy.”
BP proposes to build two terminals to receive LNG in the US and already has capacity at a terminal at Cove Point, Maryland.
However, Mr Harris said BP and others exploring in Libya would have to find enough deposits to keep an LNG plant busy.
Because of the sanctions, Libya remains relatively unexplored, by international standards. Companies are pinning their hopes on significant gas finds at a time when they have few substantial prospects around the world. European countries also hope to diversify gas suppliers after Russia's dispute with Ukraine this week interrupted gas supplies.

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