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Libya's Sharara oilfield shuts down over pollution spread

The production at Libya's Al-Sharara giant oilfield was stalled yesterday after a landlord closed a valve in protest against pollution resulting from a pipeline that crosses his land, a security source has reported.

The source told Anadolu Agency that the closed pipeline, located in Libya's north western city of Zintan, connects the field with the Mediterranean port of Zawyia.

"I closed the pipeline that crosses my land. The land is six hectares and it has become wasteland," Reuters quoted the landlord, Hassan Mohamed Al-Hadi, saying.

"We closed the pipeline last year for the same reason. A number of mediators had intervened to persuade me to reopen it within 20 days for cleaning the land, but unfortunately the same thing has returned," he added.

Al-Sharara closure is a major blow to the North African country a little more than a week after the nearby El Feel oilfield was closed by a protest.

The field, which was closed several times because of protests by security guards over pay, has a capacity of 340,000 barrels per day (bpd) but an oil source had put output at 308,000 bpd last week.

Read: At least five killed in clashes near Libyan oilfield

Al-Sharara is being run by Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) in partnership with Repsol (Spanish), Total (French), OMV (Austrian) and Statoil (Norwegian). In addition to being one of Libya's main export grades, it also feeds the 120,000 bpd Zawiya oil refinery in the west of the country, currently the largest operating refinery.

Repeated and long shutdowns cause pressure in the oilfield's wells to drop and reduce production capacity.

Last week, NOC declared force majeure on the 70,000 bpd El-Feel after a protest by guards closed the field, which is operated by a joint venture between state-owned NOC and Italy's Eni.

Since the overthrow of the long-time Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi's regime in a popular uprising in 2011, Libya has been involved in a power struggle which has led to security chaos. There are currently three governments in the country with Brigadier General Khalifa Haftar heading one in Benghazi, the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli headed by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, and the Tobruk-based government of Abdullah Al-Thinni.

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