(Adds Hariga port still closed, background)
By Feras Bosalum and Ahmed Elumami
TRIPOLI, June 15 Libya's western El Feel
oilfield has resumed production after security guards ended a
protest that lasted more than two months, oil ministry officials
said on Sunday, but many oilfields and ports remain blocked.
The reopening of El Feel is good news for the weak central
government struggling with a budget crisis as a wave of protests
at oil installations and rebel violence have dried up oil
exports, the country's main source of income.
Three years after a NATO-backed revolt toppled leader
Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's oil infrastructure remains vulnerable
as militias, armed tribesmen and Islamists who helped oust
Gaddafi now defy state authority and seize government ministries
or oil facilities at will.
Libya's oil output had fallen to less than 200,000 bpd in
the past few weeks, down from 1.4 million bpd in July when a
wave of protests started.
Much of the remaining output is used to feed the Zawiya
refinery which supplies the west of the country. Motorists have
been queueing for more than a week to refill in the capital
Tripoli with some people sleeping in cars.
Acting Oil Minister Omar Shakmak told Reuters authorities
had reached an agreement with protesters. "The protesters agreed
to reopen the field which restarted work yesterday and today,"
Production at El Feel, located in the southwest, will reach
80,000 barrels a day within 24 hours, said Ibrahim al-Awami,
head of the ministry's inspection and measurement department.
Officials did not disclose more details about the agreement
with the protesters.
Protesters shut down the field in late March to the western
Mellitah port as part of a nationwide disruption to oilfields
and ports to pressure the government over a range of political
and financial demands.
The field is jointly operated by state-owned National Oil
Corp and Italy's ENI and was producing around 85,000
bpd before the shutdown.
HARIGA PORT REMAINS BLOCKED
Libya's eastern Hariga oil export port remained blocked by
state security guards who were said they had not been paid for
A spokesman for state-oil firm AGOCO, which runs the port
and connecting oilfields, said the finance ministry had paid out
the salaries but the firm was still waiting for the guards to
confirm their protest was over.
Last year, a group of rebels seized Hariga and three other
eastern ports with the aim of exporting crude oil from there
themselves. It took the government until April to reach an
agreement with the rebels to relinquish Hariga and the Zueitina
port and to restart exports from there, only for Hariga to be
closed again last month by protesting security staff.
The rebels have kept shut the larger Ras Lanuf and Es Sider
ports pending further talks with the government. A fourth
eastern port, Zueitina, is technically open but there is no
currently crude to load.
The 340,000-bpd south western El Sharara field also remains
closed. Protesters at the field and connecting pipeline have
blocked production several times since October.
El Sharara feeds the Zawiya refinery which now gets supplied
by cargoes from Libya's two offshore oilfields, reducing the
(Reporting by Feras Bosalum, Ahmed Elumami and Ulf Laessing;
Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)