Forces from the Petroleum Facilities Guard sent by the UN-recognized government of Libya have reached the Sharara field, which the Libyan National Army, affiliated with the rival government in Eastern Libya, took control over earlier this month, Reuters reports, citing a Libyan government source.
Last month, forces loyal to eastern strongman General Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) said that they had started a military operation to secure oil sites and facilities in Libya’s south, where Sharara is located.
Then last week, a unit of PFG forces loyal to Libya’s UN-backed government in Tripoli was sent south to secure the Sharara oil field. Sharara has the capacity to pump 340,000 bpd, but has been under force majeure since December 9, 2018, after armed militia and tribesmen seized control and demanded ransom to re-open it.
Nearly two months later, Sharara remains offline, and Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC), which refuses to yield to ransom demands, said in December that, “Oil production will now only restart at Sharara after alternative security arrangements are put in place.”
On Saturday, the National Oil Corporation called on all involved parties to make sure workers at the field are safe and to protect the production infrastructure. The Libya Herald quoted NOC’s chairman, Mustafa Sanalla, as saying “Worker safety remains our primary concern. We urge all parties to avoid conflict and the politicisation of key infrastructure. Any damage to the field could have serious consequences for the sector, the environment and the national economy.”
The LNA, meanwhile, has called for NOC to lift the force majeure from the country’s largest field, but Sanalla has refused to do so, citing the tense situation between the rival factions. “Obviously, normal operations cannot restart until security is restored,” he told local media.
According to the latest Monthly Oil Market Report by OPEC, Libya’s oil production fell to 928,000 bpd in December, from 1.1 million bpd a month earlier on the back of the Sharara disruption and severe weather that closed its oil terminals temporary.