All eyes on Libya as the country resumes production at its biggest oil field

Abu Mubarik October 15, 2020
Output at Libya’s Sharara oil field, seen here in 2014, has been shut almost continuously since early January. PHOTO: ISMAIL ZETOUNI/REUTERS

Libya has restarted oil production at the country’s biggest oil field, which was shut down due to a force majeure, a legal framework that allows a company to suspend its contracts due to extraordinary circumstances, a statement from the country’ state energy company, The National Oil Corp (NOC), said.

NOC in its statement noted that it had instructed its operator Acacus to start production arrangements at Sharara oilfield, taking into consideration public safety and process safety standards. The field will initially pump 40,000 barrels of crude a day before reaching its capacity of 300,000 barrels next week, according to Bloomberg. 

The reopening of the Sharara field follows an agreement reached last month between Libya’s central government and rebel commander Khalifa Haftar to lift the nine-month blockade after the two sides resolved a dispute over the distribution of oil revenue.

Libya’s oil production had reached 1.2 million a day before powerful eastern tribes loyal to Haftar seized control of the oil fields in protest over what they said was the inequitable distribution of revenues. The blockade has reportedly deprived the NOC of almost $10 billion in revenue.

Austria’s former defence attache to Libya has told Aljazeera that the “agreement [to reopen the oildfield] could be terminated after October 17,” adding that: “As we have seen with Sharara, Haftar is probably not in a position to order a stop [of oil production] all over Libya … at least as long as the funds remain in the Libyan foreign bank and are not transferred to the central bank of Libya.”

Meanwhile, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL ) has said the country’s rival factions will hold political and military talks next month. In a statement, UNSMIL said neighboring Tunisia would host “the first face-to-face meeting” of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) in early November, following preparatory virtual consultations.

The forum aims “to generate consensus on a unified governance framework and arrangements that will lead to the holding of national elections in the shortest possible timeframe”, it added.

UNSMIL said it “has made it a requirement for participants to the LPDF to recuse themselves from political and sovereign positions in any new executive arrangement … and to refrain from the use of hate speech and incitement to violence”. 

Participants “will be drawn from key Libyan constituencies … and with a firm commitment to the meaningful participation of Libyan women and youth”, the statement added.

Libya has been plunged into conflict after a NATO-led campaign led to the overthrow and murder of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Since then, the country has been split between rival governments based in the capital Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi, each backed by armed groups and rival foreign governments.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: October 15, 2020


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