By Libya Herald reporter.
Tunis, 30 August 2017:
Libya is losing 360,000 barrels a day of crude oil production because of pipelines from three western oil fields being forcibly closed, the National Oil Corporation (NOC) says. In financial terms, the loss is worth $160 million a day, it notes.
The three oil fields – El-Fil, Hamada and Sharara – have had to cease production as a result of actions by a Zintani militia calling itself the Reyayna Patrol Brigade. Led by Ashraf Al-Gurj, it claims to be taking the action to force the NOC to invest more in the Zintan area. However, there are reports that Gurj in fact wants to force the authorities to release his cousin Usama, arrested on smuggling charges.
“These gangsters are not only harming the country but their own people,” said NOC chairman Mustafa Sanalla. “I call on tribal leaders to cut out this cancer once and for all, by withdrawing protection for these gangsters unless they lift the blockade unconditionally,” he added.
Confirming that force majeure had been declared on all three fields, Sanalla described what was happening as “a national tragedy”.
“Our production was recovering, not quite enough to balance the budget, but enough to give us hope that our financial position could stabilise and reduce the depletion of the savings of the Central Bank to cover the deficit. But now we are sliding backwards. Everybody in the country will suffer because of this criminal act. Enough is enough. Local communities must understand that gangsters like these will never bring any good to anybody. We must work together to build a stable society where the interests of all are respected, or the future will be very bleak for all of us.”
The NOC statement noted that that the militia had closed Line 30 from Sharara oil field to Zawia at the Reyayna 11 days ago, which cut production by around 283,000 b/d. They closed Line 18 from Hamada to Zawia on 25 August, cutting production by 8,000 b/d, and a day later they cut production by 70,000 b/d by breaking into the control room at El-Fil and forcing activity to cease.
The statement also noted that the Reyayna Patrol Brigade claimed to be a part of the southern division of the petroleum facilities guard (PFG). However, it said that PFG commander Idriss Bukhamada had denied any affiliation with the group, calling them a “rogue militia”.
The NOC has made a formal complaint to the chief prosecutor, naming Ashraf Al Gurj and a fellow militia leader, Ali Belaezi.
The NOC’s statement also said that the blockages had affected Zawia refinery, which depends on crude from Sharara. It would l not be able to produce fuel for local areas unless it were supplied from elsewhere, it said. That would mean deliveries by sea.
It added that the pipeline valves at Sharara had been damaged and this could cause an explosion.