Protest Prompts Libya to Shut Down National Oil Firm Al-Fil Field

Protest Prompts Libya to Shut Down National Oil Firm Al-Fil Field (News Central TV)

Due to a protest at the site, Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) has announced the stoppage of production at a key oil field in the country’s south Al-Fil field, citing “force majeure.”

The Al-Fil field, some 750 kilometres southwest of Tripoli, is co-managed by the NOC and the Italian energy company ENI and produces about 70,000 barrels of oil per day.

An armed group blocked down crude delivery valves in early March, forcing the field to close temporarily.

“On Saturday, the Al-Fil field was subjected to arbitrary closure attempts, due to the entry of a group of individuals and the prevention of the field’s workers from continuing production,” the NOC said in a post to Facebook on Sunday.

The field was shut down on Sunday, marking the second closure in as many weeks and “making it impossible for the NOC to carry out its contractual obligations,” according to the business.

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Declaring force majeure is a legal manoeuvre that allows engaged parties to walk away from contractual obligations when circumstances beyond their control, such as fighting or natural disasters, make them impossible to meet.

The stoppage comes after an unidentified group entered the site and claimed that production will be halted “until a government formed by parliament takes office in the capital,” according to Libya’s national news agency.

Libya now has two opposing administrations after the eastern-based parliament nominated a new prime minister in February, in direct opposition to the UN-backed government in Tripoli.

The House of Representatives, which is situated in Tobruk, named Fathi Bashagha, a former interior minister, as prime minister in February.

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Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, the interim prime minister located in Tripoli, has refused to resign and believes that authority would only be handed over to an elected government.

Divides among Libyan armed factions have widened in recent months, with fighters mobilising, particularly in the western region, and prompting fears that conflict could resume after more than a year and a half of relative calm.

The forced closure of the Al-Fil oil field on Sunday comes as the Russian invasion of Ukraine has shaken global markets, sending crude oil prices above $106 per barrel.

Last month, an armed group shut down Libya’s largest oil field, Sharara, before reopening it a few days later after tribal leaders led negotiations.

Libya‘s prized light crude has long played a role in the country’s civil war, with rival fighting groups and international countries vying for control of Africa’s largest oil deposits.

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Libya’s economy relies heavily on oil earnings.

Despite ten years of turmoil and lawlessness since the NATO-backed rebellion that overthrew longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the NOC is one of the few institutions that has stayed intact.

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