Just days after Libya’s eastern ports reopened, the country’s oil exports were interrupted some 50 miles west of Tripoli.
Libya’s National Oil Company declared force majeure effective July 16 from the Zawiya port following an unexpected drop in production deep in the Libyan desert.
Four oil workers were kidnapped July 14 by unknown assailants at a control station on the outskirts of the Sharara oilfield in southwestern Libya. Oil flows from the Sharara field to the coastal city of Zawiya where a refinery (120,000 b/d) is located along with an export terminal.
Two of the kidnapped workers were released, but NOC evacuated engineers for security reasons causing the field’s production to decline.
Sharara’s output dropped to 125,000 barrels per day, leaving enough oil for refining but not exports, according to the NOC statement. Production was estimated around 300,000 b/d beforehand.
Ursa data shows an increase in Zawiya crude stocks since exports were halted, though the size of the build was likely mitigated by reduced inflows.
We calculated Zawiya crude inventories at 3.03 million barrels July 16, the effective date of the force majeure. Five days later, stocks had risen by 570,000 barrels to 3.59 million barrels.
Oil tanks at Zawiya, Libya
Source: Planet Labs, Inc.
Production could be returning to normal as operations at the control station where the kidnapping occurred have resumed. No word yet on the NOC lifting force majeure.
This comes right after a heated situation paralyzed the country’s eastern ports.
A violent standoff led the NOC to invoke force majeure on loadings from Ras Lanuf and Es Sider starting June 14. Force majeure was also declared July 2 on loadings from Zueitina and Hariga.
With Libya’s “oil crescent” effectively closed, tankers were spotted heading to Zawiya instead to load crude. The NOC lifted force majeure July 11 at the four eastern ports.
That added demand might’ve helped drain stocks at Zawiya from late June to mid-July.
With Libya lurching from one crisis to the next, the full recovery of the oil industry appears far from over.