The pipeline carrying crude from Sharara, Libya’s biggest field, to the Zawiya refinery stopped operating on Sunday, according to two people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak to media. It wasn’t clear why the pipeline was shut. The state oil company National Oil Corp. couldn’t be reached immediately for comment.
Sharara, in western Libya, was pumping 200,000 barrels a day, the NOC said on April 4. The halt is poised to disrupt the country’s production which just returned to its normal levels of about 700,000 barrels a day.
Clashes among rival armed groups in early March led to the closing of two of the nation’s biggest oil export terminals, forcing a number of other fields to halt production. The ports have since reopened. Libya pumped as much as 1.6 million barrels a day before a 2011 uprising led to the breakdown in central authority and stunted oil production. Libya is one of the smallest members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
The NOC declared force majeure on loadings of Sharara crude from the Zawiya oil terminal on March 28 when the pipeline was blocked, before it was lifted again a week later. It’s not clear yet whether the NOC will declare it this time. Force majeure is a legal status protecting a party from liability if it can’t fulfill a contract for reasons beyond its control.
Sharara is operated by a joint venture between NOC and Repsol SA, Total SA, OMV AG and Statoil ASA. The field’s total capacity is 330,000 barrels a day.