February 27, 2019 / 5:25 PM / 3 months ago

Libya's top oilfield could restart at 80,000 bpd: engineer

BENGHAZI, Libya/LONDON (Reuters) - Workers at Libya’s El Sharara oilfield are ready to resume production with an initial output of 80,000 barrels a day but are still waiting for approval from state oil firm NOC, a field engineer and trader said on Wednesday.

“There is no technical obstacle to the restart of production. The issue is security,” an NOC spokesman said.

The 315,000-barrels-a-day field deep in Libya’s southern desert has been closed since December when state guards and tribesmen seized it to make financial demands.

NOC said on Tuesday it was ready to lift force majeure, a contractual waiver for clients declared in December, if armed men behind the closure were evicted. The Tripoli-based government had said on the same day it was working with NOC to do so.

In a possible sign that work might resume soon, a plane landed on Tuesday at the nearby El Feel oilfield to bring workers for this and the El Sharara field, an engineer said.

It was the first flight in more than two weeks after eastern military forces controlling the area imposed a no-fly zone for any plane without its permission.

“No permission has been given yet by NOC to restart El Sharara,” one field worker said, adding this could happen in next days.

The eastern forces took control of both fields this month as part of an offensive in southern Libya and handed the El Sharara field to an oil protection force, part of which is blamed for the shutdown in December.

Pressure has been building on NOC to reopen El Sharara. On Tuesday NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla met in the United Arab Emirates with the Tripoli-based Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj.

Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli and Ahmad Ghaddar; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Louise Heavens and Kirsten Donovan

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