Libya: Irda freed by protesters, Wafa threatened

A general view shows an oil refinery in Zawia, 55km west of Tripoli December 18, 2013. Libya is stepping up fuel imports, with four tankers queuing at one port as the OPEC producer's second-largest refinery is running at only half its capacity due to oilfield strikes, a senior official said. A mix of militias, tribesmen and civil servants demanding political rights or a greater share of Libya's oil wealth have occupied several oilfields and ports, cutting exports to 110,000 barrels per day (bpd) from over 1 million bpd in July. The government has struggled to keep the 120,000-bpd refinery in Zawiya operating since protesters in October closed the El Sharara oilfield that feeds it. Since then, Zawiya has runs off existing stocks and supplies from the eastern Brega port, which officials have closed for exports for that reason. To match Interview LIBYA-OIL/REFINERY Picture taken December 18, 2013. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny (LIBYA) - RTX16OQI

Protests at the port of Brega, eastern Libya, came to an end on Sunday after authorities reached a deal with the protesters thereby paving the way for operations to begin. The protests forced production at the Irda natural gas field to stop and last week, the National Oil Corporation (NOC) warned that nearby Sahel gas field will also be affected if the disruption continued.

According to the spokesman of Sirte Oil Co., state-run company that runs Irda, production will soon begin after “an agreement with the protesters to end their strike” was reached. The resumption of work will be good news to the authorities as Irda and Sahel gas fields have joint daily production capacity of 150 million cubic feet.

It is unclear if the agreement with the protesters will last for long because they were demanding to be employed by the company. Oil and gas fields as well as ports are usually targeted by protesters, most of the time armed, to draw attention to their demands which are often political or financial. They stop workers from getting access to their workplace. Authorities usually succumb to their pressure because the country needs to export its oil and gas to generate revenue as the war continues to dry state reserves.
Revenue generated from oil and gas has also been a source of dispute between the rival governments in Tobruk and Tripoli although NOC has remained neutral over the issue.

Meanwhile, the blockade on western oilfields continues as armed groups continue to lay siege on El Sharara and El Feel. They are the largest oilfields in the west. The group that has stopped operation at El Feel has recently threatened to invade Wafa oil and gas field which produces 30,000 bpd of oil condensates.

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