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Libya's Sharara oil field to shut after worker gets COVID-19: NOC

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Libya's Sharara oil field to shut after worker gets COVID-19: NOC

Highlights

LNA-affiliated Petroleum Facilities Guard broke into the field

NOC chairman warned of potential looting and oil theft at Sharara

Sharara is country's biggest oil field

Dubai — Libya's Sharara, the country's biggest oil field, will shut and staff will be evacuated after one employee got COVID-19, the state-run National Oil Corp. said on Aug. 31.

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The Petroleum Facilities Guard broke into the field on Aug. 29 and an employee was infected the next day by mingling with them, forcing Akakus Oil, its operator, to shut it, Mustafa Sanalla, NOC chairman, said in a statement. He warned that the closure of the field could lead to looting and oil theft.

Akakus Oil is a joint venture between NOC, Spain's Repsol, Norway's Equinor and Austria's OMV.

The field produced some 300,000 b/d before the Jan. 18 blockade on oil facilities imposed by forces loyal to the self-styled Libyan National Army and its leader, Khalifa Haftar. The Petroleum Facilities Guard is loyal to the LNA.

Libya is poised to load a condensate cargo from its Brega terminal to avert a local power crisis, making it the first shipment from the eastern port in over seven months, NOC said Aug. 24.

This comes after the Petroleum Facilities Guard of Libya's eastern oil terminals said it would reopen key oil ports to allow exports of some barrels from storage to help alleviate power shortages gripping the country.

LNA vs GNA

The North African oil producer has been wracked by conflict between the UN-backed Government of National Accord and the LNA that has almost completely halted its oil output.

On Jan. 18, eastern groups, supported by the LNA, halted exports from five key oil terminals, which dramatically reduced the country's crude production, with most of the crude that was exported being loaded directly from Mediterranean offshore field. Hopes to restart Libyan production have faced several obstacles in recent months.

On Aug. 21, Libya's UN -backed government, which only controls the western part of the country, announced an immediate ceasefire, raising the prospect of a restart to the country's oil production and exports. But this ceasefire has not yet been accepted by the LNA, which means there is still a lack of clarity over when Libyanoil output will return.

NOC has still not lifted force majeure from the key oil terminals as some of these facilities are not still fully secured.