Protestors halt production from major Libyan oil field

Hatem Mohareb, Bloomberg July 14, 2023

(Bloomberg) – A major oil field in Libya was fully halted as political tensions resurfaced in the nation that sits atop Africa’s biggest reserves.

The Sharara deposit in the southwest of the country began halting late Thursday. It has now fully stopped; the nation’s oil and gas minister Mohamed Oun confirmed the stoppage by text message. Oil prices jumped when news of the disruption, which also affected the nearby El Feel field, first emerged.

Production was halted by protesters who are unhappy with the arrest of an official who’s trying to become the boss of Libya’s central bank. Waha, where production is similar to Sharara, is further east. Various factions in the country have in the past formed alliances if they share political goals, although it’s unclear if that’s the case this time.

Libya has lurched from one crisis to the next since the 2011 civil war and overthrow of long-time strongman Moammar Qaddafi. Oil production has been highly volatile, with armed groups regularly shutting down fields.

The country has been more stable since a truce in a civil war around mid-2020, with crude output holding above 1 MMbpd for most of this year. Still, Libya remains divided between rival administrations. In addition, there are hundreds of foreign mercenaries in the country, including some belonging to Russia’s Wagner Group.

The latest disruption at Sharara means a swath of African oil supply has been curbed over the past 24 hours. El Feel was halted earlier on Thursday as part of the same protest.

In Nigeria, the continent’s top producer, the Forcados terminal had to halt while the cause of a possible leak gets inspected. Together, the Libyan and Nigerian disruptions represent well over 500,000 bpd oil flow — about 0.5% of global supply. In all three cases, a timeline for a full restart isn’t clear.

Sharara and Waha pump similar amounts of oil. Before the disruption, Sharara was at about 250,000 to 260,000 bpd, and Waha at about 280,000 to 290,000 bpd. The El Feel field handles about 60,000 to 70,000 bpd.

In addition, Forcados oil flows from Nigeria have averaged about 225,000 bpd so far this year, according to loading plans seen by Bloomberg.

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