The first reported petroleum occurrence in the Sirte Basin was observed in a coastal water well drilled by Italian colonists during the Italian-occupation. The Italian government embarked on geologic investigations of the area and produced a geologic map in 1934. Shows of natural gas were observed in the late 1930s, but World War II interrupted exploration efforts. Competitive bidding for concessions was subsequently permitted by two mineral laws passed in 1953 and 1955, and exploration by Esso, Mobil, Texas Gulf, and others commenced with seismic, magnetic, and gravity data being collected. From 1956 to 1961 giant oil fields were discovered. Libya started exporting oil in 1961 and by 1966 it was the 7th largest oil-producing nation in the world. During 1969, output from the Sirte Basin had even exceeded production from Saudi Arabia (3 Mmbpd). Libya nationalized its oil industry in 1973, and some American oil companies began withdrawing in 1982, following a 1981 US trade embargo. By 1986, the US government ordered remaining US companies to cease activities in Libya. In 1992, the United Nations sanctioned Libya in response to the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Additional sanctions applied by the US Sanctions Act of 1996 were relaxed in 1999. Since then, American and other foreign oil companies have returned to resume their operations in Libya, led by AGIP (Italy), OMV(Austria), Veba (Germany), Total (France), Nimir (Saudi Arabia), WOC (National Oil Corporation, Conoco, Marathon, Amerada Hess), and ETAP of Tunisia.
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