* El Sharara production at around 330,000 bpd
* Major pipeline to Es Sider port fixed
* January programmes on Es Sider, El Sharara to be smaller
By Julia Payne and Marie-Louise Gumuchian
LONDON/TRIPOLI, Dec 19 Output of Libya's two
main crude oil streams, El Sharara and Es Sider, has returned
close to normal levels after protests and a pipeline leak forced
operators to cut production last week, officials at Libya's
National Oil Corporation said.
Over a third of Libya's 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) of
oil exports was halted last week after production on its two
main grades ceased. Buyers of Libyan crude now expect
shorter-than-usual loading programmes for January.
Es Sider exports are expected to be around five cargoes less
than the usual 15-17 cargoes, and El Sharara exports are also
expected to be smaller by a similar amount, traders said. Es
Sider dates have started to emerge, but lifters are still in the
dark regarding El Sharara.
El Sharara production returned to around 330,000 barrels per
day (bpd) as of late Tuesday, a senior Libyan oil official said
after Oil Minister Abdelbari al-Arusi gave the go-ahead a few
Output is normally 350,000 to 360,000 bpd, and that level is
expected to be reached later on Wednesday, a spokesman for
Protests in the southern area around Obari led operating
company Akakus, a joint venture between Libya's NOC and Spain's
Repsol, to decide to reduce and then completely halt
production for several days last week for safety reasons.
Exports stopped for several days last week, but buyers
resumed lifting again on Friday morning after Akakus began
ramping up production from the port of Zawiya.
"It has now gone back to around normal production," the
Libyan oil official said. An official at Akakus said that
"production is continuing; the demonstrations are over".
Such incidents are not isolated. Social unrest periodically
affects output, refining and port operations as Libya's new
leaders struggle to impose authority after last year's war.
Libya's total output has recovered faster than expected to
around 1.5-1.6 million barrels per day after the war. The
country is Africa's third-largest oil producer and a member of
the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Most recently, operations at Libya's second-largest refinery
at Zawiya, fed by El Sharara crude, had to be halted in November
due to protests by wounded war veterans.
At Sharara , around 200 local began protesting on Dec. 6 for
social demands, several sources said, which prompted Libyan Oil
Ministry officials including the minister to fly to the site on
Dec. 17 to evaluate the situation.
"The decision (to stop production) was taken by the field
superintendent in accordance with company management. The
authorization was given to reduce, then stop (output) from a
safety point of view," the Libyan oil official said.
On the eastern side of the North African country, exports of
Es Sider were halted for about a week after a leak on a major
pipeline connecting the fields to the oil terminal forced the
operator to cut some output.
The Waha Oil Company, an NOC joint venture with Conoco
, Hess and Marathon, operates the Es
Sider terminal and oil output.
"This pipeline is old, dates back from the 1960s. There were
corrosion problems. It was being fixed for a few days, and now
the problem is resolved," an official at Waha said.
Oil is now flowing again between Dahra field and the port,
he added. Total output is usually around 320,000 bpd from four
fields - Waha, Gialo, Dahra and Samah.
The temporary shortage of Libyan crude has helped underpin
spot differentials on alternative light sweet grades,
counterbalancing falling demand as a result of low margins. Bad
weather has further worsened loading delays of around five to
Lifters of crude also still awaited the announcement of
their 2013 term allocations after they met with Libyan NOC
officials at the end of November in Istanbul to negotiate
(additional reporting by Ali Shuaib; editing by Jane Baird)