The past two days have seen forces loyal to Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) seize and then lose a key oilfield in the south, suggesting that General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) is still the king of the country’s oil.
On Wednesday, the GNA announced it had taken control of the El Feel oilfield, which produces about 70,000 bpd, pushing Haftar’s forces out.
Later that same day, Haftar’s LNA launched airstrikes at the gates of the facilities, retaking the oilfield without causing any damage.
On Thursday, forces loyal to Haftar said that Chadian forces working for the GNA were preparing to attack the nearby Sharara oilfield, the country’s largest, Reuters reported. LNA warplanes claim to have repelled the attack, though this could not be confirmed independently.
Production at El Feel had been suspended on Wednesday, but was gradually restarting by Thursday, as confirmed by the Libyan National Oil Company (NOC).
No NOC staff were harmed in the fighting, and facilities suffered only minor damage.
In a statement on Thursday, NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said: “I remind all parties that Libya’s oil and gas fields are vital sources of revenues for the benefit of all Libyans. They must not be treated as military targets. Any fighting in the vicinity of any of our facilities forces us to cease production, in order to ensure the safety of our employees. When production ceases, all Libyans lose out.”
Last week, the Trump administration seemed to be moving towards support for General Haftar following a series of meetings with Eastern Libyan representatives and suggestions that one of Haftar’s representatives, Aref al-Nayed, would be expected to play a key role in the new Libyan leadership once Tripoli was “liberated” by the LNA.
U.S. support for Haftar has gone back and forth this year. In April, Trump was clearly supporting Haftar’s push to take over Tripoli, but by the summer, pressure was on to distance the administration from Haftar’s destructive war for the Libyan capital and the mounting civilian deaths.
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
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