By Ahmed Elumami
Libya’s state oil company said on Monday there had been a “security breach” at its southern El Sharara oilfield on Sunday night.
NOC blamed weak security for the incident at a facility called 186 station, according to a statement posted after a NOC meeting that discussed the event. It gave no details of the incident and did not say whether production had been affected.
An engineer at the field said unknown people had attacked the station and stolen company cars and phones from employees.
The El Sharara field lies deep in Libya’s south that is gripped by insecurity. It has closed several times due to protests by security guards asking for salaries or other groups, part of turmoil in the North African country since 2011.
Last week, a Libyan oil source told Reuters production at the field was stabilizing around 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) and the NOC was trying to restore full capacity of 340,000 bpd.
Repeated shutdowns at the field, Libya’s largest, have slashed capacity which was running at a maximum of 280,000 bpd in recent months.
The most recent interruption was a two-day shutdown in early October by an armed group known as Brigade 30.
Repeated and long shutdowns cause pressure in the oilfield’s wells to drop, slashing its production capacity.
Boosting capacity at the field requires much-needed investment that NOC has been struggling to secure.
In addition to being one of Libya’s main export grades, Sharara also feeds the 120,000 bpd Zawiya oil refinery in the west of the country, currently the largest operating refinery.
In a separate development, NOC restarted last week the al Jurf offshore oilfield following maintenance, an industry source said on Monday.
Production was back at levels of between 30,000 and 35,000 barrels a day seen before maintenance began, the source said.
Reporting by Ahmed Elumami and Ayman al-Warfalli; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Louise Heavens and Adrian Croft