Rival army forces—one loyal to the UN-backed Libyan government and another to a strongman from the east—are fighting for control over Libya’s largest oil field, Sharara, which has been shut in for two months after it was occupied by an armed group in early December.
Last month, forces loyal to eastern strongman General Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) said that they had started a military operation to secure oil sites and facilities in Libya’s south, where Sharara is located.
Then earlier this week, a unit of forces loyal to Libya’s UN-backed government in Tripoli was sent south to secure the Sharara oil field. A unit of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) of the Libyan government of national accord, supported by the United Nations, is heading to Sharara, Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV reported on Wednesday.
The Sharara oil field has the capacity to pump 340,000 bpd, but has been under force majeure since December 9, 2018 after armed militia and tribesmen seized control and demanded ransom to re-open it.
Two months later, Sharara remains offline, and Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC), which refuses to yield to ransom demands, said in December that “Oil production will now only restart at Sharara after alternative security arrangements are put in place.”
On Wednesday, officials said that General Haftar’s LNA had taken control over Sharara.
NOC issued a statement on Friday, urging “all parties to avoid an escalation of hostilities and actions that may endanger staff or infrastructure at Libya’s largest and most important field.”
“The Sharara field manager has communicated with all parties in the vicinity of the site, urging restraint,” NOC said, while the corporation’s chairman Mustafa Sanalla added:
“We urge all parties to avoid conflict and the politicization of key infrastructure. Any damage to the field could have serious consequences for the sector, the environment and the national economy. Obviously, normal operations cannot restart until security is restored.”
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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