Libya resumed production on Monday from its largest oil field, the 340,000 b/d Sharara field, after a brief shutdown caused by the closure of its Sharara-Zawiya export pipeline.
The field was shut on Sunday afternoon, and remained offline for more than 24 hours, with the loss of nearly half a million barrels of oil, state-owned National Oil Corp. said in a statement Monday.
The pipeline was reopened earlier on Monday.
NOC laid the blame for the closure squarely on Hassan Mohammed Juili, a landowner on the pipeline route, who closed one of its valves, claiming it was causing pollution on his land.
“Juili has publicly admitted his responsibility for the closure, seen as an attempt to extort a works contract for himself to clean the land. It is noted that the same man tampered with the valve last year, again as a means of extortion. Juili used a stolen gear box to create yesterday’s stoppage,” NOC said.
“We can confirm the perpetrator will be prosecuted fully under Libyan law and justice will be done. Such closures and attempts at blackmail are not fit for our times. NOC remains the guardian of Libya’s oil wealth and will not bargain for it,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said.
Libyan oil production fell sharply on the closure, which came just days after the 90,000 b/d El-Feel, or Elephant oil field was also shut due to protests by local tribes and guards. Total output was estimated to have fallen by 40%, highlighting the continued fragility of Libya’s oil sector.
Libyan production was averaging just over 1 million b/d until late February but it has fallen by almost 380,000 b/d in the past week, sources added. Sharara and Hamada were both operating close to 300,000 b/d and 10,000 b/d last week, while El-Feel was producing around 72,000 b/d, sources added.
Crude from Sharara, El-Feel and Hamada is pumped through the same pipeline into the 120,000 b/d Zawiya refinery and the Zawiya export terminal. All these three fields have been subject to repeated closures over the last few years due to protests and attacks on export pipelines.
Sharara is operated by a joint venture of Spain’s Repsol and NOC while Hamada is operated by NOC subsidiary, Agoco.