NOC declares force majeure on Mellitah loadings after pipeline valve closed
On 9 December, the National Oil Corporation (NOC) declared force majeure on crude loadings from Mellitah port after the 73,000bpd al-Feel oilfield went offline on 5 December due to “an unlawful valve closure” on the export pipeline from al-Feel field to Mellitah complex. This incident comes just days after operations at the Mellitah-operated al-Feel field were temporarily suspended on 27 November following clashes at the facility when the local Government of National Accord (GNA)-aligned Southern Protection Forces (SPF) attempted to take control of the field from the Libyan National Army (LNA)-aligned forces securing it.
The fact that the NOC has been forced to declare force majeure, despite waiting several days to do so, indicates initial attempts to strike a deal to reopen the valve have stalled. Despite the NOC’s zero tolerance stance towards blockaders, Sanallah will want to do everything he can to ensure that the pipeline reopens as soon as possible, especially given he is currently on an international investment drive for the Libyan oil sector and this force majeure, coming so soon after the attack on al-Feel, is likely to make IOCs and investors nervous. In the past, similar pipeline closures have tended to last 1 – 2 weeks, though the ongoing conflict in Tripoli and intensifying proxy warfare dynamics could mean that reopening the valve is less of a priority for actors other than the NOC, possibly hampering or slowing efforts to increase the pressure on those responsible. Nevertheless, the NOC is likely to apply maximum pressure to reopen the pipeline as soon as possible.