By Jamel Adel and Michel Cousins.
Tripoli, 3 February 2014:
Production at the Sharara oilfield has been reduced by 40 percent as a . . .[restrict]result of a partial blockade of the oil pipeline from the field to the Zawia oil refinery and terminal.
The manager at the oilfield, Hassan Al-Sideek, told the Libya Herald that an unknown group had partially closed a valve on the pipeline near Reyayna in the Jebel Nafusa, forcing the cut in production.
Oil industry sources confirmed the report. One source, who put the cut at 40 percent, told this newspaper that when a maintenance crew went to check the valve on Wednesday, they were met by a small armed group which refused to engage with them or state what their demands were. “They said they would speak only to government representatives,” the source reported.
“We don’t know what they want”, he said, but adding that there was a feeling that that the group were looking for money.
Another source close to Akakus Oil which operates the field 60 kilometres west of Obari, said that those involved were thought to be from Zintan but acting on their own behalf.
Zintan officials have denied any knowledge of the blockade. There have been a number of issues at Rayayna. Last week, about the same time the valve was turned down, its council leader was murdered. Three months ago, the population of west Reyayna were allowed back home having been driven out for their support for Qaddafi in attacks on Zintan during the revolution.
Production at the Sharara oilfield restarted early last month after a two-month blockade by protestors was lifted. The protestors, many of them Tuaregs, were demanding National ID numbers although, officially, they said that their chief demand was the removal of the old, unelected local council in Obari.
When the protestors lifted the siege at the beginning of January, following negotiations with the Defence Minister, Abdullah Al-Thinni, they said that they were giving the authorities two weeks to meet their demands. If nothing happened, the blockade would resume. In the event, nothing has happened so far. The protestors have remained in the area but have not started their action.
A member of the demonstration committee, Mahmoud Alansari, told this paper yesterday that although there had been no response so far to the demands, the protestors understood that obtaining a quick response from the authorities at present was unrealistic and that they would therefore bide their time. [/restrict]