May 9, 2015 / 7:38 PM / in 4 years

Tanker at Libya's Zueitina port lifting oil; new crude flows still blocked

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - A tanker has docked at the eastern Libyan port of Zueitina port to lift 750,000 barrels of crude, an oil official said on Saturday.

The ship had begun loading from the port’s tanks, the official said, adding that crude flows from connected fields were still blocked by protests that started a week ago.

Unemployed local people have blocked pipelines to the port demanding that the state oil firm hire them, shutting down the Nafoura oilfield which had pumped between 30-35,000 barrels a day to Zueitina.

“The port is working normally but there are no new crude flows,” said the oil official. “They are now emptying the port’s tanks.”

Zueitina was one of the few Libyan ports still exporting oil after the largest, Ras Lanuf and Es Sider, closed in December because of clashes between armed groups allied to Libya’s two governments.

The closures have knocked down Libya’s oil production to 380-400,000 bpd, an industry source told Reuters on Friday. The OPEC member had pumped up to 1.6 million bpd in 2010 before an uprising toppled Muammar Gaddafi, sending the country and industry into turmoil.

Last month the western El Feel oilfield, run by state firm NOC and Italy’s ENI, shut down due to a strike by security guards demanding state jobs. The neighboring El Sharara field had closed in November due to a pipeline blockage.

The loss of oil revenue has triggered a public finance crisis, forcing the central bank to use up a quarter of its foreign currency reserves in 2014, according to official data.

Libya is caught in a struggle between two governments, one based in the east and a rival administration controlling Tripoli, after former rebels who helped oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 have fallen out along political, regional and tribal lines.

Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Andrew Roche

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