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March 21, 2011

Libya is a major energy exporter, especially to Europe

Libya, the largest holder of proven oil reserves in Africa and until recently its fourth largest oil producer, exports most of the energy it produces. Europe is the major market for both oil and natural gas exports from Libya. Following the outbreak of civil unrest in mid-February, Libyan oil and natural gas production has been cut by 60 to 90 percent, affecting Libya's energy exports. Oil exports have fallen with production and Libya's natural gas exports to Italy via the Greenstream pipeline stopped in late February.

Libya produced an estimated 1.8 million barrels per day (bbl/d) of oil in 2010, of which 1.5 million bbl/d were exported. Libya exports nine grades of crude oil. API gravities range from 26.0 degrees to 43.3 degrees, with a sulfur content as low as 0.2-0.3%. While the lighter, sweeter grades are generally sold to Europe, the heavier crude oils are often exported to Asian markets.

  • About 85% of Libyan oil exports go to Europe, including Italy, Germany, France, and Spain.
  • Italy is the top destination for Libyan oil, which accounted for 28% (376,000 bbl/d) of Italy's total oil imports in 2010.
  • The United States imported an average of 70,500 bbl/d from Libya in 2010, or 0.6% of our total imports (according to EIA January through December estimates).
  • About 3% (150,000 bbl/d) of China's oil imports came from Libya in 2010.

Libyan natural gas exports

Libya produced an estimated 562 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of dry natural gas in 2009, one third of which is domestically consumed. Libya exports the remainder of its natural gas.

  • Libya became a liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter in 1971, the second country in the world to export LNG after Algeria.
  • Natural gas exports to Europe have grown considerably since 2004 through the 370-mile underwater Greenstream natural gas pipeline that runs from Melitah, Libya to Gela, Sicily. From Sicily, the natural gas flows to the Italian mainland.
  • All Libyan natural gas exports go to Europe. In 2009, Libya exported 349 Bcf, the vast majority by pipeline, with a small volume exported in the form of LNG.
  • Libyan natural gas accounted for 13% of total Italian gas imports in the first 11 months of 2010, the top destination country, according to the International Energy Agency.

See EIA's Libya Country Analysis Brief for more information about Libya.