Libyan protesters block oil pipeline to Mellitah port as strikes widen


Libyan protesters have blocked a pipeline carrying oil condensates from the southwestern al-Wafa oilfield to the Mellitah export port, state-owned National Oil Corp (NOC) said on Thursday.

The action, the latest in a wave of protests paralyzing oilfields and ports across the North African country, knocks out one of the last oil export lines for the cash-strapped government.

NOC spokesman Mohammed El Harari said a gas pipeline from the Wafa field, which produces around 30,000 barrels a day of very light oil, to Mellitah was still working.

But Libya’s al-Aseema television station said the protesters, made up of oil security guards, were also threatening to stop gas exports from the Mellitah complex, operated by NOC and Italy’s ENI, to Italy.

Harari gave no new production figure, after NOC put output this week at 155,000 bpd. More than half of it is used to keep the Zawiya and Tobruk refineries going to ensure fuel supplies. Wafa also produces gas for the local market.

Oil production was 1.4 million bpd before the start of a wave of protests, mainly at oil ports in the east. This week the 130,000 bpd El Feel field, co-operated by ENI, also stopped working. The 340,000 bpd El Sharara field shut down weeks ago.

Oil and gas exports are Libya’s lifeline. Parliament has been unable to work out a budget for 2014, forcing the central bank to make a $2 billion emergency loan this week.

The oil protests reflect chaos in the OPEC producer as the government struggles to control dozens of militias who help oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but kept their arms to demand power and a slice of oil wealth.

Libya has still two offshore oilfields producing around 80,000 bpd untouched by protests.