Production gradually commenced at Libya’s largest oilfield, El-Sharara, on Saturday after a blockade by forces loyal to eastern-based commander, Khalifa Haftar, halted output in January. “We hope that resuming production in the El-Sharara field will be the first step to restore life to the oil and gas sector in Libya, and a start to save the economy from collapse,” a statement by the representative of the country’s National Oil Corporation reads.
Haftar’s self-styled army succeeded in shutting off most of Libya’s production and crippling economic activities. Due to the blockage, the NOC, which operates in partnership with several foreign oil firms, declared a Force Majeure on loading at the oil field on January 17. El-Sharara is operated by the NOC in conjunction with Spain’s Repsol, French oil major Total, Austrian-based OMV, and Norwegian company Equinor.
Before now, the enormous oilfield in southwest Libya produced over 300,000 barrels per day (BPD). But according to engineers on the field, output began at about 20,000 BPD, and the filling of storage tanks during the restart was expected to take two to three days.
Operations began after Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), who blockaded major oilfields and ports since the begging of the year, was pushed back in an offensive by Libya’s internationally-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).
The GNA said on Friday, June 5, 2020, that they entered Tarhuna, the last major stronghold of Haftar in the west after an earlier defeat of Haftar’s army from its last positions in Tripoli the day before.
The North African country has been in a civil war for 14 months since Haftar’s army carried a march on Tripoli, the country’s capital. The country is torn between two warring factions, the GNA in Tripoli, headed by Fayez al-Sarraj and the government of renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar known as LNA.
While thousands of people lost their lives in the war, interest in the war escalated beyond the four walls of the oil-producing country with foreign powers scrambling to take sides with either faction, providing them with arms and resulting in a proxy war that seems hard to end.
Russian mercenaries, Egypt and the United Arab Emirate fully supported Haftar, while Turkey, on the other hand, supported the UN-backed government with soldiers and weapons. In order to stop the war, the European Union made a move to stop the illegal movement of arms into the country on February 17, 2020.