Libya Energy and Environment Facts

Natural resources and energy

Oil and natural gas are Libya’s most important natural resources by far. The country has Africa’s largest oil reserves, and the ninth largest in the world. Oil reserves were estimated to be sufficient for more than 50 years at the recovery rate that prevailed before the outbreak of the war in 2011. The country is also well placed to sell its assets to the industrialized countries in Europe.

The oil sector was nationalized during the 1970s and placed in the hands of the state-owned National Oil Corporation (NOC). On the other hand, the oil sector was never exposed to Muammar Gaddafi’s experiments with people’s committees, but on the contrary, was very careful to ensure the government a fixed and high income. For example, the NOC continued to cooperate with US oil companies even during Gaddafi’s most US-hostile phase, until the US government itself banned oil imports from Libya in 1982. US sanctions against Libya were lifted in 2003-2006, shortly after the UN and the EU lifted most of its sanctions against Libya (see Modern History and Foreign Policy and Defense).

  • COUNTRYAAH: Major exports by Libya with a full list of the top products exported by the country. Includes trade value in U.S. dollars and the percentage for each product category.

In practice, the extraction is run in collaboration with international companies. But oil exports have been hurt by the unrest in the country since 2011 and are at a fraction of the normal level due to strikes, blockades, sabotage and the fact that armed organizations have taken control of facilities. Natural gas exports are affected to a lesser extent as the gas is mainly extracted at sea and exported via pipelines under the water, which the armed groups find more difficult to access.

Libya is a member of the oil producing states’ cartel organization Opec and was during Gaddafi’s time in power a leading advocate for high oil prices, in contrast to, for example, some of the states of the Persian Gulf.

  • Abbreviationfinder: A popular acronym site in the world covering abbreviation for each country. For example, LY stands for Libya. Visit itypeusa for more information about Libya.

Most of the oil fields are located in the southeast, but there is also oil in western Libya. The main export ports open towards Great Syrten, the Mediterranean Gulf of central Libya (also known as the Sidrabay or Sirte Gulf). These include, for example, al-Sidra, Ras Lanuf, Brega and al-Zuwaytina. Exports are also made via Tobruk in the northeast and al-Zawiya in the northwest, for example. In January 2011, the ports of Greater Syria and eastern Libya accounted for two-thirds of the country’s oil exports, with the port of al-Sidra solely responsible for one-third of Libya’s oil trade.

Libya also has large reserves of natural gas. In the 1990s and 2000s, the government tried to replace oil consumption with natural gas in the domestic market, to release oil for export. Almost all electricity came from oil-fired power plants in the past, but now gas accounts for a large part of electricity production.

A Russian-built research reactor was opened for inspections by the United Nations Atomic Energy Agency IAEA in 2003. The plant then began to be converted to a conventional nuclear power plant. In 2007, France signed an agreement with Libya that opened for the construction of a nuclear reactor. Libya’s stated purpose in using nuclear energy is electricity generation and desalination.


Energy use per person

2,855 kg of oil equivalent (2014)

Electricity consumption per person

1841 kilowatt hours, kWh (2014)

Carbon dioxide emissions in total

56 996 thousand tons (2014)

Carbon dioxide emissions per inhabitant

9.2 tonnes (2014)

The share of energy from renewable sources

2.0 percent (2015)



Sirte is stated to be completely liberated

December 17

Unity government leader Sarraj says the armed operation in Sirte has ended and the city is liberated from IS. Thus, the terror sector no longer holds any territory to speak of. However, Sarraj warns that the fight against IS is not over.


Continued battles in Sirte

October 2

About 20 people are killed in fighting between government-loyal forces and IS- jihadists who are still in a part of the city. A Dutch journalist is shot dead by a sniper while eight soldiers and at least ten jihadists die in fighting.


Alarms about starving families

September 30th

Amnesty International says that around 130 families who are deported from the outside world in Ganfouda district of Benghazi are at risk of starvation. Islamists hold the besieged area, surrounded by Haftar faithful forces.

Oil is shipped from Ras Lanuf

September 21

A Malta-flagged ship heads for Italy and becomes the first oil tanker in two years to leave Ras Lanuf. It is also the first export since General Haftar’s forces entered the oil ports and handed them over to the state oil company NOC.

Nearly a quarter of a million migrants in Libya

September 15th

The UN envoy Kobler states that 235,000 migrants are in the country waiting for a chance to cross the Mediterranean. According to the Italian Ministry of the Interior, 128,000 have already taken over so far during the year (compare August 2015).

The Tripoli government loses oil terminals

11 September

Forces loyal to General Haftar in eastern Libya over the course of a few days take control of the oil terminals in Ras Lanuf, Sidra, Zuwaytina and Brega, from militia groups loyal to the unity government. The terminals are absolutely central to oil exports. Haftar has not acknowledged the UN-backed government in Tripoli, but this is the first time direct strikes have erupted. The offensive is condemned by the United States, European countries and UN envoy Martin Kobler. Concern is now mounting for a new major outbreak of violence.


No more chemical weapons

August 30th

The last chemical weapons stockpiles in Libya are shipped from Misrata with a Danish ship, under UN supervision.

Thousands of migrants rescued off the coast

August 30th

Around 6,500 migrants are picked up from the sea in some 40 coordinated rescue efforts, one of the largest to date. It takes place around two land miles outside Sabrata. Since the EU and Turkey have agreed to halt the flow of migrants coming to Europe via Turkey / the Balkans, more and more people are seeking refuge again via Libya. Most come from Eritrea and Somalia or West African countries. During the year, over 3,000 people drowned in the Mediterranean while trying to get to Europe.

Many dead in final battles in Sirte

August 27th

At least 34 combatants are reported to have been killed and 150 wounded as troops loyal to the unit government attempt to occupy the last two IS-controlled areas in Sirte. IS is reported to have triggered at least five car bombs.

The Tobacco Parliament votes against the Unity Government

22 August

When the internationally recognized parliament in eastern Libya holds a vote of no confidence, 61 of the 101 members present vote for it, 1 vote against and 39 abstain. However, the MPs give Fayez al-Sarraj ten days to present a new unity government.

Aggravated humanitarian situation

August 19th

UN envoy Martin Kobler says more than 2.4 million Libyans are in need of assistance. Not least, drugs, vaccines and medical equipment are missing. Nearly 300,000 children do not attend school and almost 350,000 Libyans are still internally displaced.

Wave of suicide attack in Sirte

August 17th

The government says that IS has committed nine suicides in one day, in an attempt to maintain control of central parts of Sirte. Nine government soldiers are killed and more than 80 wounded in the attacks.

IS headquarters intake

10th August

The Libyan militia forces say they have taken the headquarters of the Islamist sector in a conference facility in Sirte. IS is still said to control three residential areas and one residential complex. The United States has estimated that there are fewer than 1,000 IS fighters in the city.

US soldiers support efforts

9th of August

A special force of support supports the Libyan troops who are fighting against IS in Sirte, reports the Washington Post. US and also British soldiers stationed at a joint operations center outside the city help to coordinate the air strikes that have continued, and provide the Libyan troops with intelligence.

Suicide bombings in Benghazi

August 2

At least 18 people die when a car-driven suicide bomber explodes at the headquarters of a security force fighting against Islamists in the city. It is the fourth car bomb in Benghazi in just a week, although previous assaults did not require as many lives.

US bombs IS in Sirte

1 August

US fighter planes attack Islamists in the port city at the request of the unity government in Tripoli. This is the first time the United States is carrying out attacks in collaboration with the government (see also November 2015 and February 2016). According to Prime Minister Farraj, the enemy is causing “severe losses”.


Many children miss schooling

July 25

The UN warns that around 279,000 children in Libya cannot attend school because of the country’s struggles. A total of 558 schools have been closed.

Explosion plant recovered from IS

23 July

Government-loyal forces say they have occupied a building that IS used as a factory for manufacturing explosive charges, on the outskirts of Sirte.

The government condemns French military presence

July 20

The UN-backed government is reacting angrily after French President Fran├žois Hollande confirmed that three French soldiers had been killed during an intelligence mission in Libya. According to the government, this constitutes a violation of the country’s sovereignty.

The UN warns of the destruction of world heritage sites

July 14

The UN agency Unesco places all five world heritage sites in Libya on its list of threatened sites. Armed groups pose a threat to archaeological remains, stone carvings and the ancient city of Ghadamis, the “pearl of the desert”, it is called.

The government occupies headquarters

July 11

After just over three months on the fleet base, the UN-backed government moves into the government’s usual premises.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi is reported to be free

July 7

Gaddafi’s new lawyer states for French television that the former dictator’s son has been on the loose since April and is in Libya “well-rested”. He must have been covered by an amnesty law adopted by the former House of Representatives in Tripoli.


Ministers dismissed

June 30th

The presidency kicks off four ministers, including the finance minister, because they have not taken up their posts.

Continued battles in Sirte

21 June

Over 30 government supporters are killed in battles with IS and around 100 injured.

Violent explosion

21 June

At least 25 people are reported dead after an explosion in Garabulli, five miles east of Tripoli. The cause is unclear but it may have been an internal business settlement. At the same time, fighting is ongoing in the area.

Fighting rages in Sirte

June 12

Forces loyal to the unity government are said to be close to taking control of the coastal city, which would mean a major advance in the fight against IS. The Islamist group should be surrounded by an area in the city center.

Former regime representatives murdered

June 10th

Twelve people who have just been released from prison, conditional on their connections to the Gaddafi regime, are found shot to death.

IS loses power plant

June 1st

A group loyal to the Unity Government takes control of an important power plant near Sirte. Fighting against IS is ongoing on the outskirts of Sirtes.


IS is driven out of two cities

30 May

The Armed Forces PFG forces retake two coastal cities, Ben Jawad and Nofiliya, during an advance west toward Sirte.

US terrorist stamps IS-Libya

May 19th

The Libyan IS branch is placed on the US black list of global terrorism, which means that sanctions can be imposed on people who are considered a threat. IS groupings in Yemen and Saudi Arabia also receive the stamp of terror, but IS-Libya is also referred to as a “foreign terrorist organization”.

Violent fighting near Sirte

May 18

Fighting against IS near Sirte demands 32 lives among fighting loyal to the unity government, while at least 50 are injured, the government says. Seven people also die when a car bomb explodes six miles west of Sirte.

IS is charged with illegal executions

May 18

Human Rights Watch states that at least 49 people have been murdered in Sirte following allegations such as mockery, witchcraft or espionage. The executions are conducted without normal legal process and constitute war crimes, according to the New York-based human rights group.

The unit government requests assistance with aircraft

May 17

The government wants fighter jets and helicopters to fight IS, and says they have already made great progress in a counter-offensive against IS. Among other things, the junction of Abu Qurayn has been revoked.

Support for lifting the UN arms embargo

May 16

The United States, Italy and other allies and neighboring countries to Libya agree during a meeting in Vienna to support the Unity Government’s request to purchase weapons and aid with military training to combat IS.

Presidential Guard formed

May 10

The Unity Government announces that a new military force will be formed with the task of guarding government buildings, border posts and other important places. It is the UN’s first government-sponsored initiative to establish an armed force in the country.

IS is moving west

May 5th

The jihadists are taking land west of Sirte for the first time when they take control of Abu Qurayn (Abu Grein), an important crossroads where the coastal road meets the main road south. The crossroads are located 15 miles west of Sirte and 10 miles south of Misrata, the country’s third largest city. A week later, a suicide attack is carried out at a roadblock in the desert, five miles west of Abu Qurayn. In addition to two assailants, four soldiers die and 24 are injured.


Majority support the Unity Government

April 21

102 members, a majority of the members of the Tobruk Parliament, claim to have confidence in the unity government, but no formal vote has yet been reached.

UN personnel return to Tripoli

April 17

Three years after the UN left Libya because of the rising violence, UN employees are back in place in the capital.

Visit by European Foreign Ministers

April 17

As a way of showing support for the new unity government, foreign ministers from France, Germany and the UK visit Tripoli. At the same time, the EU promises financial and military support to the Unity Government. Diplomats from several other countries have also recently visited Libya.

The US warns of IS inflows

April 14

According to US President Barack Obama, more IS supporters are moving to Libya because of the group’s backlash in Iraq and Syria. Obama has called it his worst mistake as president to let Libya fall apart after Gaddafi was ousted. New intelligence reports in the United States claim that the number of IS fighters in Libya has probably doubled in the past 12-18 months, to between 4,000 and 6,000.

The Unity Government takes control of the website

April 7

The site used by the Tripoli government is taken over by the new government and is given a new logo and new names on the ministerial list.

Conflicting messages about the Tripoli government.

April 6

The situation is obviously chaotic. An unsigned message is published on the Ministry of Justice’s website stating that the government, never recognized outside the world, will resign, to avoid further bloodshed. But the next day, Chief Minister Ghawi urges his ministers not to give up.

Important bodies support the unit government

April 3

The central bank, the influential state oil company NOC, the guard force at the oil facilities in the east and a number of important municipalities (such as Sabrata, Zawiya, Zuwara and Obari) are among those who support the government of al-Sarraj.

The EU is facing sanctions

April 1st

Three people get travel bans and assets frozen because of their opposition to the unity government: the Tripoli Ghawi government head, Tripoli Nuri Abusahmen Speaker and Agilah Saleh Issa who is the Speaker of the Tobruk House of Representatives.

The Tripoli government falters

April 1st

Despite earlier threatening statements, the government that has been in Tripoli seems to be on the verge of dissolving itself. The al-Ghawi commander is reported to be fleeing to his home town of Misrata. Thus, the risk of confrontation in the capital with the new unity government seems to be decreasing. However, members of the militia are still guarding the National Congress which has not given up.


The UN gives the unity government sole legitimacy

March 31st

The Security Council adopts a resolution which means that all oil exports must go through the new management.

The unity government comes to Tripoli.

March 30

Fayez al-Sarraj and six other UN-backed leaders come to the Libyan capital by boat, despite the warnings. They set up a temporary headquarters at a naval base. The airspace has been closed because the existing government in Tripoli wanted to keep the presidency away. al-Sarraj speaks at a press conference about a new era of “dialogue and communication”. But Khalifa al-Ghawi, the head of the Tripoli-based government, talks about “illegal infiltrators” and says measures should be taken to save the country from chaos and foreign intervention.

The UN chief pleads for the unity government

March 29th

Ban Ki-Moon is visiting Tunisia and urges all parties to have the unit government set to work as soon as possible. Those who prevent it should be held accountable, says the secretary general.

“Maximum state of emergency” in Tripoli

March 25th

The Tripoli government issues a warning after the Tunisian presidential council said that the unity government will soon install itself in Tripoli.

The UN envoy is prevented from traveling to Tripoli

March 23rd

Martin Kobler intended to try to move the work forward and prepare for the unity government to take up office in the capital, but was prevented from flying there at all.

Neighboring countries want to see unity government

March 20

At a Tunisian ministerial meeting, delegates from Algeria, Egypt, Niger, Sudan and Chad call on Libya parties to urgently get the unity government in place.

The Tobruk government warns against unity government

March 18th

The government in Tobruk warns in a statement the so-called unity government to try to take office, and warns “foreign parties” to try to get the new government in place. No one should deal with such a government until it has passed a vote of confidence in Parliament, it says.

The Tripoli government announces unity government

March 15th

A government that has been appointed by foreign countries without a consensus in Libya has nothing to do in Tripoli, it states in a clear setback for the attempts to set up the so-called unity government.

The EU is preparing sanctions

14th of March

The EU has started to plan for sanctions against individuals that are an obstacle to the unity government, says Union Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini.

The Unity Government intends to take office

the 12th of March

A call signed by 100 parliamentarians in Tobruk equates to a vote of confidence and the UN-backed government thus considers itself mandated to take office. No vote in Parliament has been held.


French forces in Libya

February 24th

The Tobruk government rejects information in French media that French special forces are in Libya to fight IS, which the Tripoli government has confirmed.

The US may attack from Italy

February 23

Defense Secretary Roberta Pinotti states that the US has been given the go-ahead to use an air base in Sicily for drone attacks to protect people and assets used to fight IS.

No vote unity government

February 23

The Tobruk Parliament fails to gather enough members to vote for the new government.

Success against jihadists in Benghazi

Forces loyal to the Tobruk government are said to have expelled jihadists from the Lithi district of Benghazi, described as a jihadist center and come to be called “Benghazi Kandahar” (after a province in Afghanistan).

UN envoy to Tobruk

February 21st

Martin Kobler will “assist” with the vote of confidence for the proposed unity government, scheduled to be held on February 23.

Fighting in Benghazi

February 20th

Nineteen members of the Tobruk faithful security forces are killed during two days of fighting to take control of a Benghazi district. At least eight members of a militia group are also killed.

Government programs are presented

February 20th

The intended Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj presents his program to the Parliament in Tobruk.

US attack against IS

February 19

US flights bomb IS positions in Sabrata, west of Tripoli. Among the 50 people killed are Tunisian Noureddine Chouchane, who is suspected to have played a key role in the two major terrorist acts against tourists in Tunisia in 2015 (see Tunisia: Current Politics). According to the US Department of Defense, the attack was likely to avert a new major attack in Tunisia. Two Serbian embassy employees held hostage since November should also have died in the air strike.

A new government proposal is presented

February 14th

The UN-backed Presidency Council presents a new unity government to which the Tobruk Parliament will take a position. The government consists of 18 ministers.

IS commander to Libya

February 3

High-ranking leaders are said to have sat in relative security in Libya, ahead of the intense bombing war against IS in Syria and Iraq. An increasing number of foreign combatants are reported to have gathered in Sirte – besides Iraqis and Syrians, including Tunisians, Egyptians, Sudanese and Algerians.

Parliamentarians who supported the UN agreement are fired

February 3

Ten members of the Islamist-backed parliament in Tripoli are reported to have been fired because they have signed the power-sharing agreement.

The outside world sees increased IS threat in Libya

February 2

Representatives of 23 countries meet in Rome to discuss the war on IS. The US-led alliance says they have successfully pushed back IS in Syria and Iraq, which, however, is contributing to an increasing number of IS members applying to Libya. However, there are no plans for any major military intervention in Libya, it says. However, the United States has admitted that, at some point, smaller groups of special forces were recently sent to Libya. Other NATO countries are also believed to have sent smaller groups to seek potential local allies ahead of a major clash with IS.


The Tobacco Parliament votes no to the Unity Government

January 25

Out of 104 members present, 89 vote against the agreement on a unity government. The outcome of the vote represents a major setback for the UN’s attempt to unite the two rival parliaments. The Tunisian Presidency now has ten days to try to put together a new, smaller government.

Multibillion losses in missing oil revenues

January 25

The state oil company NOC states that the country has lost $ 68 billion in oil revenues since 2013, reports the Financial Times.

The Unity Government is presented

January 19

The UN-backed unity government is presented by a presidential council based in Tunisia announcing the names of 32 ministers, including Fayez al-Sarraj as head of government and Marwan Abusrewil as foreign minister. Information on disputes surrounding the ministerial posts and that members of both rival parliaments still question the settlement mean that it is doubtful whether it will lead to any difference in practice.

Over 60 dead in suicide bombings against police recruits

7 th of January

At least 65 people are killed and over 100 in a blast at a training center for prospective police officers, located at a former military base in the city of Zliten in the west. A suicide bomber in a truck is behind the attack, which is said to be the bloodiest since Gaddafi’s fall. IS takes on the deed.

IS attacks oil plants

January 4th

Struggles erupt when IS attacks several oil terminals. For several weeks, IS has been trying to move east from its stronghold in Sirte. Many have warned of devastating consequences if the jihadist group manages to take control of Libya’s oil reserves. The battles last for several days. At least four large oil storage tanks in al-Sidra and Ras Lanuf are burning after IS attacks. Combat aircraft from the Tobruk Government have participated in the defense of the area.

Libya Energy and Environment Facts

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