A group of Libyan demonstrators halted production at the country's largest oil field, that of Garbage, and Plant 108 (south of Gialo city, in Al Wahat district), demanding the release of Faraj Boumtari, former finance minister, captured by the militia Rada three days ago at Mitiga International Airport in Tripoli. The closure of the Sharara field was announced by the protesters themselves on their Facebook page "Sadaa al Wadi al Ihtiatya" (The echo of the valley of providence), threatening "a new crisis in the Libyan energy sector which will lead to interruptions in the export of oil to Europe”. Instead, the Libyan broadcaster announced the blockade of the 108 system "At Masar”, identifying as responsible for the closure the members of the Zawiya tribe (of which Boumtari is a part), who live between the cities of Agedabia and Al Junoun al Sharqi, in the north-east of the country. Sharara is the largest oil field in Libya, it is managed by the Akakus joint venture, which brings together the Libyan National Oil Corporation, the Spanish Repsol, the French Total, the Austrian Omv and the Norwegian Statoil, and alone boasts a production of around 300 barrels per day.
The blocking of the production of Sharara e 108 comes after yesterday a group of Libyan demonstrators halted the production of the El Feel (Elephant) oil field, located in southwestern Libya and managed by Mellitah Oil and Gas, a joint venture between the National Oil Corporation (NOC) and Eni. He had reported it to "Agenzia Nova" a Libyan source present on the site which, when fully operational, extracts about 70 barrels of Bu Attifel quality oil, low in sulfur and very easy to refine. “The field will remain open for a foreseeable period, the time to unload the remaining fuel. But in a few hours it will be closed,” the source said yesterday. The demonstrators are demanding the release of Boumtari, Minister of Economy at the time of the Government of National Accord (GNA) of former premier Fayez al Sarraj, who disappeared three days ago at Mitiga international airport in Tripoli, controlled by the Rada militia (Special Forces of deterrence), one of the most powerful armed groups in Tripolitania, the north-western Libyan region.
Already threatened in the past by militia leaders for non-payment of wages, Boumtari (member of the tribe of Zawiya that populate the eastern regions of Agedabia, Kufra, Brega and Gialo-Ujla) held various positions in the Tripoli government and was in the running to run for the position of governor of the Central Bank of Libya to succeed Al Saddiq al Kabir, the most senior Libyan official long-lived currently in office. Tribes in the Libyan Oil Crescent region also staged a similar protest and threatened to halt crude oil exports from coastal terminals in the Gulf of Sidra in north-central Libya starting today.
These developments come in the context of recent controversies over the distribution of oil revenues and public funds in the North African country. The Libyan general Khalifa Haftar, commander-in-chief of the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) based in Benghazi, in Cyrenaica, had in fact threatened to block the oil wells in the event that a new mechanism for the delivery - more fair and transparent - of the sums paid by the Central Bank. The Libyan source interviewed by "Nova" had reported that the LNA forces, present in the Murzuk basin area (where the Sharara and El Feel fields are located), did not oppose the closure of the plant operated by Eni: circumstance, the latter, which raises questions about the role of Haftar in the stoppage of the field operated by Eni.
Finally, it should be noted that the blockade of the three oil fields by demonstrators and Boumtari's tribe has come in the midst of a new standoff between the authorities in the east and west of the country. In fact, again yesterday, a travel ban was imposed on five members of Libya's High Council of State, a sort of upper house with mainly advisory functions but nonetheless essential for the most important decisions and appointments. The ban, imposed without providing explanations, was confirmed to "Agenzia Nova" by Ahmed Langhi, a member of the Libyan "Senate" based in Tripoli. The five were about to travel to Turkey to attend a symposium, but were told at passport control that they could not leave the country. On 11 July, however, the High Council of State had accepted "in principle" with 63 votes in favor of the road map on electoral laws issued by the 6+6 Joint Committee which also provides for the replacement of the Government of national unity led of the interim premier, Abdulhamid Dabaiba.