Libya’s Arabian Gulf Oil Company (Agoco) has cut oil production by another 10,000 barrels per day (bpd) due to protests that have closed off its headquarters for nearly two weeks, a spokesman said on Saturday.
Protesters have prevented employees from entering Agoco’s office since April 23, calling for more transparency over how Libya’s new rulers are spending its money and more jobs for youth.
Agoco, based in the eastern city of Benghazi, had threatened to cut production if no solution was found by May 3.
It first cut 20,000 bpd on Thursday and another 10,000 bpd on Friday, spokesman Abdeljalil Mayuf said, in a setback for Libya’s oil industry which has recovered well since the end of last year’s conflict that ousted Muammar Gaddafi.
“We are now at 340,000 bpd,” Mayuf said by phone, adding that the eastern Tobruk refinery was down to 15,000 bpd from 20,000 bpd because of the protests.
Mayuf said more than 100 Agoco employees gathered outside the Benghazi office of the High Security Committee on Saturday calling for a solution to end the blockade. Officials there said a meeting was planned later in the day with the head of Libya’s ruling council over the matter, he added.
“Now we wait and see. If there is a solution we won’t need to cut (production) again,” he said.
Meetings have been held between civil society groups and the demonstrators, who have pitched a tent outside Agoco’s office, but have failed to end the protests.
Oil accounts for the bulk of Libya’s economy and exports. The North African country is close to returning to pre-war production of 1.6 million bpd, and its recovery contributed to a rise in OPEC output in April despite a drop in Iranian supply.
Discontent has been simmering in Benghazi, the cradle of the Libyan revolt, for a while. In January, protesters stormed the headquarters of the ruling National Transitional Council while its chairman was still inside.
The interim government appointed in November is leading Libya towards elections in June but is struggling to impose order on a country awash with weapons. Agoco, which produced 425,000 bpd of crude oil before the war, acted as the de facto state oil company of the Libyan uprising as international sanctions imposed during the conflict prevented dealings with its parent company, the National Oil Corporation.