Libya oil production at one-third of prewar level

TRIPOLI, Libya — Libya’s oil output is almost at a third of its prewar levels, the country’s acting oil minister said Monday, adding that the resumption of production was moving quicker than expected.

Output, which virtually ground to a halt during the 8-month civil war that toppled Moammar Gadhafi, has reached 531,000 barrels per day, said Ali Tarhouni, the interim government’s oil and finance minister. The OPEC member, which sits atop Africa’s largest proven reserves, produced about 1.6 million barrels per day before the war.

Officials had expected output to reach about 500,000 barrels per day by the end of the year and to achieve prewar levels by the end of 2012.

Tarhouni said the current output levels “means we are ahead of schedule.”

“So far we succeeded in reactivating some of the oil fields, only with local employees,” Tarhouni told a town hall meeting in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. He said former rebels are protecting oil fields from any attempts at sabotage.