Libyan oil company announces closure of field amid political deadlock

CAIRO (AP) — Libya’s national oil company said Sunday it was forced to shut down an oil field amid a political standoff that threatened to plunge the North African nation back into armed conflict.

The state-run National Oil Corp. said a group of people entered the al-Feel field in the south of the country on Saturday, shutting down production. He did not say who these people were or whether they were armed.

But tribal leaders in the southern region announced the closure of the field in a video statement on Saturday and demanded the dismissal of Mustafa Sanallah, chairman of the National Oil Corp. They also demanded what they described as the fair distribution of oil revenues among the three main Libyan countries. Regions.

They also called on embattled Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah to hand over power to the parliament-appointed government of rival Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha. There was no immediate comment from Dbeibah’s government.

The company announced force majeure on the ground, a legal maneuver that allows a company to evade its contractual obligations due to extraordinary circumstances.

He called on rival parties to keep conflicts away from the oil sector to save its already dilapidated infrastructure.

It was not immediately clear how many barrels of production Libya would lose from the shutdown. The country’s production was previously around 1.2 billion barrels per day.

Marei Bredan, head of the oil workers’ union at the Zueitina terminal in the Gulf of Sirte, said protesters blocked the terminal on Sunday and prevented workers from shipping a tanker carrying 1 million barrels of crude, according to the outlet. local Fawasel. Media.

Bashagha was named prime minister in February by the Tobruk-based House of Representatives. Dbeibah, who is based in the capital of Tripoli, has refused to step down and insists he will only hand power to an elected government.

Over the past two months, factional divisions in Libya have deepened, with militias mobilizing, particularly in the western region. This raised fears that fighting could resume after more than a year and a half of relative calm.

Sunday’s shutdown comes as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine rocked markets around the world, pushing crude oil prices above $106 a barrel.

Last month, an armed group shut down al-Feel and another critical oil field, Sharara, Libya’s largest, before reopening days later following negotiations by tribal leaders.

Libya’s prized light crude has long featured in the North African country’s civil war, with rival militias and foreign powers jostling for control of Africa’s biggest oil reserves.

The oil-rich North African country has been wracked by conflict since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The country has for years been divided between rival administrations in the east and west, each supported by different militias and foreign governments.