Libya's National Oil against paying 'ransom' to reopen El Sharara field
* Libya's biggest oilfield halted since seize began last Sat
* Ransom payment would set dangerous precedent -NOC
* NOC declared force majeure on exports on Monday
* NOC has evacuated some staff -engineers
(Adds El-Feel working normally)
By Ayman al-Warfalli
BENGHAZI, Libya, Dec 14 (Reuters) - 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
"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.
(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli, Ayman al-Warfalli and Ulf
Writing by Maher Chmaytelli and Ulf Laessing
Editing by Dale Hudson and Susan Fenton)
First Published: 2018-12-14 14:49:30
Updated 2018-12-14 16:11:51
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