The National Oil Corporation (NOC) says more than 360,000 barrels per day of Libyan crude oil production has been shut in by what it describes as a “criminal militia” operating in Western Libya, at a cost to the country of $160 million in lost production.

“These gangsters are not only harming the country but their own people,” said NOC chairman Mustafa Sanalla. “I call on tribal leaders to cut out this cancer once and for all, by withdrawing tribal protection from these gangsters unless they lift the blockade unconditionally.”

The militia, which calls itself the Rayayina Patrols Brigade, illegally shut the trunk crude oil pipeline (Line 30) from the Sharara oil field to Zawiya at the Rayayina valve on 19th August 2017, cutting production by an estimated 283,000 bpd. The militia also illegally closed Line 18 from Hamada to Zawiya on 25th August, shutting 8,000 bpd, and broke into the control room at the El-Feel field on 26th August 2017, shutting down 70,000 bpd of production there.

Force majeure has been announced at all three fields, and NOC has lodged a formal complaint with the General Prosecutor, naming two militia leaders, Ashraf el-Qaraj and Ali Belaezi.

The Rayayina Patrols Brigade claims to be a unit of the Petroleum Facilities Guard southern division. However, Brigadier General Idriss Boukhamada, the PFG commander, denied any affiliation with the group. “This is a rogue militia. It does not act with the authority of the PFG,” he said.

The Sharara blockade has had knock-on effects.The pipeline valves have been damaged by the illicit closures, raising the risk of an explosion in the crude oil pipelines. And Zawiya refinery, which depends on crude oil from Sharara, will stop producing essential fuels for local consumption unless alternative crude oil is supplied by sea.