(Adds El Feel output, background)
By Feras Bosalum and Ahmed Elumami
TRIPOLI, May 14 (Reuters) - Libya’s El Feel oilfield has restarted production, National Oil Corp (NOC) said on Wednesday, as it moves slowly to restore some output following protests that closed fields and ports.
The government said on Monday it had reached an agreement with protesters to reopen the western El Sharara, El Feel and Wafa oilfields and the pipelines connecting them to the Zawiya port.
Expectations and doubts about the return of the oilfields have driven global oil prices this week.
The El Sharara oilfield, the largest at 340,000 barrels per day (bpd), was still closed on Wednesday, because protesters had not yet opened the pipeline valve to the port, field manager Hassan Sadiq said.
“They (protesters) reopened the valves for the Wafa and El-Feel oil fields but not for Sharara,” he said. “We are ready to resume work once the valves are reopened.”
NOC spokesman Mohammed El Harari said El Feel was pumping more than 35,000 bpd, helping to slightly boost national output to 250,000 bpd, still far short of Libya’s roughly 1.4 million bpd before the protests started.
El Feel, which has a pre-shutdown production capacity of 85,000 bpd, is jointly operated by NOC and Italy’s ENI.
Harari said gas was flowing from Wafa, but he did not know whether pumping of liquid condensates had resumed.
Three years after a NATO-backed revolt toppled leader Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s oil infrastructure remains the target of protests and shutdowns, usually by brigades of former rebels who refuse to disarm or recognise the state’s authority.
The western pipeline network has been closed by protesters since March, forcing the shutdown of the fields.
Analysts say Libya’s oil output is vulnerable to new and continued protests, given that opposition groups are fractured and lack a joint leadership.
In the east of Libya, a government deal to reopen two major oil ports controlled by another rebel movement looks likely to unravel over the movement’s opposition to the appointment of a new prime minister.
The deal reached in April led to the reopening of the two smaller eastern terminals of Hariga and Zueitina, but the larger ports of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider remain shut pending more talks. (Reporting by Feras Bosalum; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Jane Baird)