East Libya oil output stops after attacks: rebels

By Angus Macswan

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – Production at rebel-held oilfields in eastern Libya has stopped after they came under attack from forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, a rebel spokesman said on Wednesday.

Oilfields in Misla and the Waha area were hit by Gaddafi’s artillery on Tuesday and Wednesday, spokesman Hafiz Ghoga told reporters in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

“These oilfields are the ones that pump oil to Tobruk,” said Ghoga. “They stopped pumping today.”

Both fields are in the desert, hundreds of kilometers south of the rebel-held town of Ajdabiyah. Rebels have been trying to resume exports to raise revenue for their uprising.

Ghoga said Gaddafi’s forces hit Waha’s field 103 on Wednesday and Misla on Tuesday after a previous attack there at the weekend.

“These oilfields are the ones that pump oil to Tobruk. What we have marketed is what we have in reserve in Tobruk. We have one million barrels (in reserve).”

He added that until Tuesday the rebel-held east Libyan fields were pumping 100,000 barrels per day. Damage from the latest attacks was still being assessed.

“It was not an air strike, it was from the ground using vehicles. The vehicles had artillery on them,” he said.

“We are now providing more protection. We have even moved people from the front (to the fields),” Ghoga said.

He did not give details of the damage although when the first Misla attack was reported at the weekend, the rebels said a diesel storage tank was hit and the damage was not very serious.

FIRST CARGO LEAVES

The Liberian-registered tanker Equator sailed from Marsa el Hariga, near Tobruk, earlier on Wednesday apparently with the first cargo of crude sold by rebels since their uprising against Gaddafi began in February, shipping sources said.

Ghoga added: “We hope that production will continue at the rate of the past but because of the damage that has come to our fields because of Gaddafi’s military tools, our production has been affected.”

“We have a quantity of oil that needs to be marketed so that oil production does not stop and cause problems and it is in the port of Marsa el Hariga, but Colonel Gaddafi is trying to stop our efforts by hitting the oil fields.”

Libya was producing around 1.6 million barrels per day of oil and exporting some 1.3 bpd before the uprising.

(Writing by Tom Pfeiffer and Barry Moody)

East Libya oil output stops after attacks: rebels