El Feel oilfield near Murzuq, Libya in 2017. Picture: REUTERS/AIDAN LEWIS
El Feel oilfield near Murzuq, Libya in 2017. Picture: REUTERS/AIDAN LEWIS

Benghazi/Cairo — Rival Libyan forces clashed around the El Feel, 70,000 barrels per day (bpd) oilfield on Wednesday. Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) said it had halted production  because of air strikes.

“There have been air strikes at the gates of the El Feel oilfield and inside a housing compound at the field used by NOC personnel,” NOC chair Mustafa Sanalla said in a statement. “Production will remain shuttered until military activity ceases and all military personnel withdraw from NOC’s area of operations.” 

There were no reports of damage or casualties.

“We ask combatants to halt operations around the field,” Sanalla said in a statement. “Any escalation in violence may lead to staff being evacuated.”

An engineer at the field said the clashes were between oil facilities guards led by commander Ali Kanna, who is aligned with the internationally recognised government in Tripoli, and forces linked to Khalifa Haftar, a commander based in the east.

Libya’s oil production has been repeatedly disrupted in recent years by conflict and blockades but is currently relatively stable at about 1.25-million bpd.

Libya has been divided since 2014 into rival military and political camps based in Tripoli and the east. Haftar controls most of the country’s oilfields and facilities but oil revenues are controlled by the central bank in Tripoli.

El Feel is operated by Mellitah Oil & Gas, a joint venture between the NOC and Italy’s Eni. 

A statement carried on the Facebook page of the military council of the southern city of Sabha said the forces aligned with the Tripoli government had taken control of El Feel. Some members of the forces posted videos or photos on social media appearing to show them at the field.

There was no immediate comment from Haftar’s forces, which have controlled El Feel and the nearby El Sharara oilfield since February.

In April, Haftar’s forces launched an offensive to capture Tripoli. The campaign quickly stalled, though fighting between rival forces continues on the outskirts of the capital.

Reuters