Gunmen shut four Libya oil fields: NOC

Gunmen shut four Libya oil fields: NOC
3 min read
20 December, 2021
Gunmen linked to Libya's oil facilities guard force have shut down four key fields in a major blow to production, the National Oil Corporation said Monday.
The latest blockade comes just days ahead of presidential elections (Getty)

Gunmen linked to Libya's oil facilities guard force have shut down four key fields in a major blow to production, the National Oil Corporation said Monday.

The NOC reported that output was slashed by "more than 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) due to individuals from the Petroleum Facilities Guard" shutting the Sharara, al-Fil, al-Wafa and al-Hamada fields.

A spokesperson for the guards said the closure was because of a pay dispute.

"Meeting our engagements towards refineries is therefore impossible and we are obliged to declare force majeure," NOC chief Mustafa Sanalla said in the statement.

Declaring force majeure is a legal move allowing parties to free themselves from contractual obligations when factors such as fighting or natural disasters make meeting them impossible.

The NOC has repeatedly been forced to do this when armed groups have seized or blockaded oil infrastructure during Libya's conflict over the past decade.

The repeated disruptions have cost the country, which has Africa's largest reserves of crude, billions in revenues.

A spokesperson for the PFG, which usually employs local men to guard oil facilities, told AFP the latest move was because of a delay in salary payments to its personnel. 

The spokesperson also said the group had blocked pipelines from the Sharara and al-Wafa fields to their respective export terminals at the western end of Libya's coast.

The Mellitah complex, close to the border with Tunisia, is the start of a natural pipeline through which Libyan natural gas, partly from al-Wafa, is pumped under the Mediterranean to Italy.

It is jointly managed by the NOC and Italian petrochemicals major ENI.

The al-Sharara field, in the desert 900 kilometres (560 miles) south of Tripoli, is operated by a joint venture between the NOC and four European companies.

Libya's electricity firm GECOL said the latest blockade would "cause a shortfall of some 2,500 megawatts", meaning longer hours of Libya's chronic power shortages.

The latest blockade comes just days ahead of presidential elections intended to help turn a page on a decade of lawlessness in Libya since the 2011 fall of dictator Moamer Ghadaffi.

They are widely expected to be postponed because of deep divisions over their legality and bids by controversial figures.

One is eastern military chief Khalifa Haftar, whose forces in early 2020 blockaded a string of oil facilities to demand a larger share of revenues managed by Tripoli, which he was trying to seize by force.

His year-long assault on the capital failed, leading to a landmark ceasefire in October 2020.

In recent months, Libya has produced some 1.2 million bpd, compared with up to 1.6 million bpd prior to Kadhafi's fall.

 

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