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Gabon Enlists Military To Retake Oil Facilities Shut Down By Protestors

The Gabonese government sent the military to recapture oilfield control centers from protestors on Friday in an effort to resume partial production as an industry-wide workers’ strike carries on.

A Reuters report said the Libreville government retook control over the Onal and Coucal oilfields, but a spokesperson from the union organizing the strike said that the resistance would continue until salaries were raised as demanded.

Both affected fields restarted minimum services on Friday, the National Organization of Petroleum Employees said.

So far, the worker shortage has caused 28,000 barrels of production to go offline, severely hurting the OPEC-member country’s output – which averaged 217,000 barrels per day in 2016 according to OPEC’s secondary sources. Total and Shell dominate Gabon’s oil sector.

The French oil company Maurel et Prom, which owns the two closed oilfields, has not yet commented on the status of the strikes or any plans to engage the workers.

Gabon became a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) last July after a hiatus of more than two decades.

Gabonese authorities said they rejoined the group because they were looking for enhanced coordination with other global oil producers to alleviate some of the pressure of low energy prices and to help cultivate an environment more conducive to expanding domestic production.

Related: What Will It Take For Oil To Breakout?

The country left the cartel in 1994, when it became unable to pay the group’s annual membership dues. At the time, the country requested that its contributions be adjusted in line with its production levels; however, the group’s larger members rebuffed this proposal.

Gabon has already adjusted its budget twice in response to lower crude prices over the past two years, but its economy remains highly dependent on oil, accounting for more than 80 percent of exports, 60 percent of government revenue and 45 percent of gross domestic product according to the World Bank.

By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

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