Libya’s National Oil against paying ‘ransom’ to reopen El Sharara field

Oil drilling rig pounds into the desert searching through thousands of feet for oil in El-Sharara, Libya. (Getty Images)
Updated 14 December 2018
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Libya’s National Oil against paying ‘ransom’ to reopen El Sharara field

  • Ransom payment would set dangerous precedent
  • NOC declared force majeure on exports on Monday

BENGHAZI: Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corp. (NOC) said it was against paying a ransom to an armed group that has halted crude production at the country’s largest oilfield.
“Any attempt to pay a ransom to the armed militia which shut down El Sharara (oilfield) would set a dangerous precedent that would threaten the recovery of the Libyan economy,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said in a statement on the company’s website.
NOC on Monday declared force majeure on exports from the 315,000-barrels-per-day oilfield after it was seized at the weekend by a local militia group.
The nearby El-Feel oilfield, which uses the same power supply as El Sharara, was still producing normally, a spokesman for NOC said, without giving an output figure. The field usually pumps around 70,000 bpd.
Since 2013 Libya has faced a wave of blockages of oilfields and export terminals by armed groups and civilians trying to press the country’s weak state into concessions.
Officials have tended to end such action by paying off protesters who demand to be added to the public payroll.
At El Sharara, in southern Libya, a mix of state-paid guards, civilians and tribesmen have occupied the field, camping there since Saturday, protesters and oil workers said. The protesters work in shifts, with some going home at night.
NOC has evacuated some staff by plane, engineers at the oilfield said. A number of sub-stations away from the main field have been vacated and equipment removed.
The occupiers are divided, with members of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) indicating they would end the blockade in return for a quick cash payment, oil workers say. The PFG has demanded more men be added to the public payroll.
The tribesmen have asked for long-term development funds, which might take time.
Libya is run by two competing, weak governments. Armed groups, tribesmen and normal Libyans tend to vent their anger about high inflation and a lack of infrastructure on the NOC, which they see as a cash cow booking billions of dollars in oil and gas revenues annually.


Oil prices edge up as OPEC says its crude output fell sharply in December

Updated 18 January 2019
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Oil prices edge up as OPEC says its crude output fell sharply in December

  • OPEC cut oil output sharply in December before a new accord to limit supply took effect on Jan. 1

SYDNEY, Australia: US oil prices inched higher on Friday after a report from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries showed its production fell sharply last month, easing fears about prolonged oversupply.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $52.40 per barrel at 0026 GMT, up 32 cents, or 0.6 percent, from their last settlement. WTI futures closed down 0.4 percent on Thursday.
International Brent crude oil futures had yet to trade, after closing up 1.1 percent in the previous session.
OPEC cut oil output sharply in December before a new accord to limit supply took effect on Jan. 1, it said on Thursday, suggesting that producers have made a strong start to averting a glut in 2019 as a slowing economy curbs demand.
“The OPEC+ production cuts (that stared this month) will be paramount to keeping the market tight and supporting prices,” ANZ said in a research note. The body is making cuts along with other major producers such as Russia.
OPEC said in its monthly report that its oil output fell by 751,000 barrels per day (bpd) in December to 31.58 million bpd, the biggest month-on-month drop in almost two years.
But tempering that support for prices, OPEC also cut its forecast for average daily demand for its crude in 2019 to 30.83 million barrels, down 910,000 bpd from the 2018 average.