TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Pipeline blockades by Libyan militia brigades making economic demands have closed down three oilfields and forced state-run National Oil Corporation to declare force majeure at several sites, officials and sources said on Sunday.
Six years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya is caught in a power struggle among competing factions and various armed brigades, and the OPEC country’s oil infrastructure is often the target of blockades and protests.
A local Libyan brigade closed down two valves on a pipeline to Sharara oilfield, the country’s largest, to make demands for more fuel supplies and better economic conditions for the Zintan region, a source in Zintan said.
Sharara, which was producing around 280,000 barrels per day, had been shut a week ago, engineers said, and NOC declared force majeure on loadings of Sharara crude from the Zawiya oil terminal, according to a company document.
Another field, El Feel, has also been shut because of the pipeline blockade, and NOC has declared force majeure on Mellitah crude exports due to the closure, two Libyan oil sources said.
Another brigade tasked with oil facilities protection has closed a pipeline leading to the Hamada field. NOC had also declared force majeure there and the field would possibly close down after the declaration, a spokesman for state company AGOCO said.
Hit by protests, militant violence and pipeline shutdowns, Libya’s crude production has at times fallen below 300,000 barrels per day, far from the 1.6 million bpd the North African state produced before the 2011 revolt against Gaddafi.
NOC had more recently managed to bring production back up to around one million barrels per day, its highest in four years, after successfully managing to negotiate settlements with local communities and brigades.
Reporting by Ahmad Ghaddar in London; Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli and Ayman Al-Warfalli in Benghazi; writing by Patrick Markey, editing by Louise Heavens and David Evans