Tripoli is pushing ahead with plans to hold its third oil and gas exploration licensing round since the lifting of international sanctions in 2004, despite recent changes at the top of the country's oil sector. Senior officials attending the latest OPEC meeting in Vienna in mid-March said the round would go ahead some time this year, although they admitted that it would be delayed from its planned date in March while details are finalised. The form of the licensing round, which was originally expected to use the same EPSA IV contract model used in the previous two rounds, has been unclear following recent statements by former oil minister Fathi ben Shatwan suggesting that Tripoli planned to offer concessions to develop existing oil fields (MEED 10:2:06).
Further doubts about the exploration licensing round followed the wide-ranging cabinet reshuffle in early March, which saw the departure of National Oil Corporation (NOC) chairman Abdullah al-Badri, the principle architect of the EPSA IV competitions.The reshuffle also saw the closure of the Oil Ministry and the apparent demotion of Prime Minister Shukri Ghanem, a key ally of Al-Badri.Speaking to reporters in Vienna, Al-Badri, who was heading the Libyan delegation, said: 'There will be a licensing round this year. It's the same policy. No change.'