Libya's oil output has risen to 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) boosted by fresh flows from Spain's El Sharara field, the interim oil and finance minister said. "As of an hour ago we are up to 500,000 barrels per day with the Sharara field resuming operation," he told a news conference in Libya's second city of Benghazi earlier.
Repsol's field is now producing around 30,000 bpd, the Spanish oil and gas company said, still a long way off flows of 360,000 bpd before Libya was thrown into a civil war earlier this year. A team of engineers was sent to inspect damage to offices, accomodation and electronic equipment last week and reported it could take many months for output to return to pre-war levels.
Their findings included evidence of rampant looting and that many buildings at the site had been destroyed by the fighting. "We are slowly increasing production," the chairman of Repsol's joint venture Abdulmajid Shah told Reuters. He said that most of the site's spare parts had been stolen but the field's infrastructure itself had been left intact. He also said he did not know when the field was likely to reach its pre-war output.
The site is located in the Murzuq basin, near Italy's Elephant field, which was reported to have suffered extensive damage during the conflict. The region deep in the southwest is still viewed unsafe and worries about attacks from roaming militias armed by Gaddafi loom large. Safety concerns are deterring foreign workers from returning to their remote desert outposts and this could further hinder the rise in flows.
So far, Libyan crude oil is pumping almost entirely as a result of local workers who are more prepared to take risks and forces loyal to the transitional council sent to protect the field from possible guerilla-style attacks. "One of the brigades from Zintan that provides protection for a Repsol oil field in the south managed to pump oil for the first time to the north," an NTC official said earlier giving no further details. Repsol had exploration contracts in several areas of Libya before the war but so far has only restarted production at its Sharara field, one of Libya's largest. Austria's OMV also has an interest in the venture.