El Sharara oilfield under East Libya control


Eastern Libyan military forces have full control of Libya’s biggest oilfield, El Sharara, a spokesman said, in a challenge to the internationally recognised government in Tripoli.

There was no immediate confirmation or comment from state oil firm NOC which, with foreign partners, operates the 315,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) field in Libya’s southern desert.

LNA (the Libyan National Army) in eastern Libya began an offensive in the south last month to fight militants and secure oilfields.

Last Wednesday, the LNA reached a remote pumping station of El Sharara, but had until now not moved on the main field, which a force of state guards and tribesmen seized in December demanding funds. Production stopped then.

“Peacefully with no resistance LNA has full control over Sharara oilfield and all its facilities,” the LNA spokesman said on Twitter, adding the facility was being secured.

Pictures posted online showed jubilant soldiers standing in front of an El Sharara signpost. Reuters was unable to reach workers at the field for further information.

Hours earlier, the LNA chief of staff, Abdel-Razeq Nathouri, told Reuters soldiers were negotiating access to the field.

The internationally recognised government in Tripoli tried sending its own commander, Ali Kennah, to secure the field. El Sharara formerly belonged to the Tripoli administration which was unable to exercise control.

Kennah flew on the weekend to the nearby El Feel oilfield and later made to El Sharara, but failed to take control of it, oil workers said.

Oil production in Libya, a member of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, has been disrupted since conflict broke out in 2011, with protesters and armed groups often targeting oilfields and energy infrastructure.

National production stands at under a million bpd, well below pre-2011 capacity of 1.6 million bpd.