Rebels under Ibrahim Jathran, a former anti-Gaddafi rebel who seized the port and two others with thousands of his men in August, stand guard at the entrance of the Es Sider export terminal ( Photo : Reuters)
Libyan state security guards have started a protest at the 120,000 barrel per day Hariga oil port in the east, halting any oil exports from the terminal, a Libyan oil official said on Saturday.
The port closure is the second blow to Libya's oil industry days after gunmen forced the closure of the southerly El Sharara oilfield which used to pump at least 200,000 bpd.
A tanker had been waiting for three days to lift oil from Hariga, located in Tobruk, but the guards did not allow it to, the official said. The port was only open for fuel imports and the exports of refinery products, which are marginal, he added.
The closure will lower Libya's output to around 500,000 bpd or even less, based on previous published figures. The state National Oil Corp (NOC) has not given a production update for a month.
The protesters at Hariga were part of a state security oil force which has gone on strike over pay several times this year.
"There is a sit-in from security guards who say they have not been paid," said the official, who asked not to be named. "We are trying to solve the issue."
Authorities hoped to restart the El Sharara oilfield within three to four days if the security situation allowed it, said a senior oil worker at the field, also asking not to be named.
But an officer in the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) at the oilfield said gunmen had attacked El Sharara again on Friday.
"There was fighting yesterday between PFG of the field and invaders resulting in one wounded PFG member and three killed invaders," he said.
The PFG members had withdrawn afterwards, leaving the field to them, he added.
No more details were immediately available from the remote area in Libya's southern desert.
Some Libyan websites have said the attackers are supporters of an armed group which seized the capital Tripoli in August, forcing the internationally recognised government to move to the east. But Reuters has been unable to confirm this.
The El Sharara closure would not affect the Zawiya refinery connected to the field as tanks there had stocks for 17 days, he said. NOC could get fresh supplies from the southwestern El Feel field or via the Es Sider oil port, he added.
The 120,000 bpd-refinery supplies the capital Tripoli and western Libya with gasoline.
Libya's oil industry had recovered in the past few months from a wave of protests at ports and oilfields which had lowered output to 100,000 bpd in the first half of the year. Output hit 900,000 bpd in September.
Officials had hoped the output would stay isolated from chaos gripping the North African country where two governments and parliaments compete for legitimacy three years after the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi.