Last week, once again, Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) had to shut down production of the El Feel oil field due to fighting in the vicinity between GNA and LNA forces. The fighting, including LNA airstrikes, that did not end up harming the significant oil infrastructure or employees, bit did however force the NOC to shut down production for one day, until all fighters cleared out from the area. This means Libya produced and exported 73,000 barrels less than it does most days.
Only a short time after, Libya had to shut down production again as the pipeline from El Feel to Mellitah had been interrupted due to an “unlawful valve closure”, a “criminal attempt”, according to NOC Chair Sanallah.
When fighting began anew in April, Libya’s largest oil field, Sharara, had to be shut down a number of times in one August, causing national production to dip below 1 million barrels per day, the lowest level in months.
Sannallah, has, it seems at times almost had to beg the two warring sides to leave Libya’s oil infrastructure out of the fighting, that they are a vital source of revenue for the country. Indeed, even with the years of conflict and lack of investment, Libya still produces closet to 1.12 million barrels per day, according to OPEC figures.
After last week’s airstrikes, Sanallah had to “remind all parties that Libya’s oil and gas fields are vital sources of revenues for the benefit of all Libyans”… and that “they must not be treated as military targets.”
It seems as though this should not have to be said. If there is one factor that has remained stable throughout the years of fighting, and one thing that can carry Libya economically through the continued fighting, is its oil sector. It is clear, and we have written in the past, that much of what is driving foreign intervention in Libya is the various international and regional powers jockeying for day-after position to win lucrative oil and infrastructure projects. But for the most part, the two warring sides have managed to stay clear of all-out fighting over the fields. The last thing Libyans want is a 1991 Saddam Hussein style scorched-earth of oil fields that only wreaks havoc and benefits nobody. No matter which side of this conflict one supports, we should all agree that nobody touch the oil fields.