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Just days after similar protests shut down the country’s largest oilfield, Sharara, new protests against corruption and distribution of oil wealth have erupted again in Libya, threatening to shut down two oil and gas facilities within 72 hours.
The two facilities, at the Zawiya refinery, west of Tripoli, pump gas from the Mellitah complex, owned by Italian Eni and the Libyan National Oil Company (NOC), and halting operations here would interrupt the flow of gas through the Libya-Italy Greenstream pipeline.
If protesters succeed, they will cut off the processing of 120,000 barrels of oil per day at a refinery connected to the 300,000-bpd Sharara oilfield, which has been in a state of force majeure since Sunday.
There is scant reporting in Libya about the incident, with Energy Intelligence the first to report the incident, followed by Reuters on Thursday. According to Reuters, the protest was announced via video by the Corruption Eradication Movement, which is demanding that NOC Chairman Farhat Bengdara be removed from his post for “violations amounting to the level of crime”, Reuters reports.
Protester demands also include restrictions on Bengdara in the meantime to prevent him from concluding any further oil deals for the country, more job opportunities for youth near oil facilities, and stricter environmental controls.
"If the authorities do not respond to our demands, the movement may develop into civil disobedience," a spokesperson for the group told Reuters in a telephone interview. There is currently a legal case pending challenging the validity of the appointment of Bengdara as chairman of the NOC. In a Monday hearing, the Tripoli Court of Appeal said it would issue an urgent ruling on the matter on January 22, according to Libyan media reports.
The urgent ruling will address whether Bengdara should be suspended in the interim while the Court of Appeal decides on his eligibility to chair the NOC given his dual citizenship with the UAE. Dual citizens have been removed from their posts in the past in Libya.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com