Production at Libya's Sharara oil field returns to normal after protest: NOC

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Production from Libya’s largest oil field was returning to normal after being briefly disrupted by armed protesters who broke into a control room in the coastal city of Zawiya, the National Oil Corporation (NOC) said on Monday.

A view shows Sharara oil field near Ubari, Libya, July 6, 2017. Picture taken July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Aidan Lewis

A pipeline supplying jet fuel and gasoline from Zawiya to Tripoli that the protesters had also closed has reopened, the NOC added.

Libya’s Sharara field has been producing about 270,000 barrels a day (bpd), accounting for about a quarter of the country’s output. It has been key to a revival in Libya’s oil production, which climbed to more than 1 million bpd in late June from just over 200,000 bpd a year ago.

Libya has been exempted from an OPEC-led push to cut global production and bolster oil prices, and the recovery of the North African country’s output has complicated the bloc’s efforts to curb supply.

The NOC gave no reason for the protest in Zawiya, which began on Sunday, forcing oil workers to gradually reduce production from Sharara which is located in Libya’s south west.

A local shipping source said loading operations in Zawiya had also been affected. The tanker Dubai Beauty was due to load 750,000 barrels at Zawiya on Tuesday, the source said.

The NOC operates Sharara in a partnership with Repsol, Total, OMV and Statoil.

The field has seen several brief shutdowns after it was reopened in December following a two-year blockade of the Sharara-Zawiya pipeline. Armed groups have frequently targeted oil facilities across Libya in recent years in order to press financial or political demands.

“The armed protesters were evacuated from the control room, pumping returned to its natural level and production is being restored,” the NOC said.

NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla, who has campaigned to end blockades, restated a plea to local factions not to disrupt oil supplies, which represent Libya’s only significant source of income.

“Personal grievances and demands cannot be resolved through inflicting harm on everyone, and closure tactics are an unacceptable negotiating method,” Sanalla was quoted as saying in the NOC statement.

Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli, Ahmad Ghaddar and Ahmed Elumami; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Greg Mahlich and David Holmes