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Dec 10, 2018 | Libya

Armed group blocks key oil field in Libya

By AFP
A general view shows the Zawiya oil installation on August 22, 2013 in Zawiya, Libya.  By MAHMUD TURKIA (AFP)
A general view shows the Zawiya oil installation on August 22, 2013 in Zawiya, Libya. By MAHMUD TURKIA (AFP)

An armed group has seized one of Libya's largest oilfields in the country's southwest, the state-owned National Oil Corporation said Monday.

The seizure of Sharara oilfield prompted the company to declare "force majeure" on exports from the site.

"National Oil Corporation (NOC) hereby declares a state of force majeure at the Akakus-operated Sharara oil field as of Sunday," the company said in an online statement.

Akakus is a joint venture between NOC, Spain's Repsol energy company, France's Total, Austria's OMV and Norway's Statoil.

It produces some 315,000 barrels per day, out of Libya's current output of one million bpd.

The field's shutdown risks production at neighbouring oil facilities including al-Feel oilfield, which relies on Sharara for electricity, and al-Zawiya refinery, dependent on Sharara for crude oil to produce fuel for local consumption.

The combined impact of the shutdown costs Libya's economy $32.5 million (28.5 million euros) daily, NOC said.

Force majeure, invoked in exceptional circumstances, exempts the company from liability in case of non-compliance with oil delivery contracts.

NOC, which is reviewing procedures to evacuate employees, urged local authorities to "act in the national interest and return security to the site".

It called on the armed group to leave the oilfield "immediately without pre-condition", ruling out negotiations with the militia.

"The presence of this group is a real threat to the field and to the future of our country," said NOC chairman Moustafa Sanalla. "I want to be clear, this militia has to leave the field immediately."

Oil facilities in Libya are regularly targeted by rival armed groups, local militias or tribes vying for power or pushing for their social demands to be met.

An online video showed southern Libyans saying they are blocking the field to protest against marginalisation as well as shortages of electricity, gasoline and money.

Previous blockades at oil facilities over similar demands have been swiftly lifted following negotiations between the authorities and local tribes.

Libya has plunged into chaos since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Two competing administrations, rival militias, tribes and jihadists have been competing for control of territory and the country's vast oil wealth.

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