Africa Oil & Gas: Sharara Oil Field Resumes Pumping After Weekend Shutdown

A general view of the El Sharara oilfield, Libya
A general view of the El Sharara oilfield, Libya December 3, 2014. REUTERS

Crude oil production at Sharara, Libya’s biggest oil field, was briefly suspended after the pipeline that feeds the crude from the field to the Zawiya terminal was blocked. That’s what local sources told Bloomberg, without adding any detail regarding the cause of the pipeline’s closure.

The field resumed operation today, the sources said.

Sharara pumps about 300,000 bpd, which is close to a third of Libya’s total 1.1-million-bpd production. The field has experienced several outages over the past year as various groups target it—or rather the pipeline to Zawiya—as a means to their own ends.

Last August, for example, production at Sharara was suspended several times. First, a militant group attacked a control room at Zawiya terminal. Then, a group of protesters blockaded the pipeline from Sharara to Zawiya, again leading to the suspension of production at the field. Earlier suspensions have had to do with oilfield workers protesting their work conditions and compensation.

Last month, protests also shut down most production from another field, El Feel. As of the start of this month, Bloomberg reports, El Feel produced just 25,000 bpd, down from 75,000 bpd before oilfield guards began their protest.

The sources that reported the El Feel shutdown last week warned that the supply disruption could spread wider, including to Sharara. The National Oil Corporation of Libya has been locked in a pay dispute with El Feel’s guards amid problems with local communities that are demanding more fuel supplies from the company. No end of the problems is in sight as NOC argues that the oilfield guards report to the Defense Ministry, so it should be the agency taking care of their pay.

Libya boasts the biggest crude oil reserves in Africa, but the civil war that ravaged the country after the removal of Muammar Gaddafi crippled its oil industry. Before the war, Libya produced 1.6 million barrels of crude daily. Currently, with the two field closures, it pumps less than 1 million bpd.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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