Libya's Biggest Oil Terminal Evacuated as Fighting Erupts Nearby

(Bloomberg) -- Workers were evacuated from Libya’s biggest oil port of Es Sider as fighting escalated nearby, highlighting threats to the North African country’s efforts to restore its crude production following two years of conflict.

The evacuation to Ras Lanuf, to the east, was a precautionary measure,  Saad Dinar, head of the oil workers’ union in eastern Libya, said by phone. The decision was taken as forces loyal to eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar, which control the area, sought to repel an attack on the port by Benghazi Defense Brigades forces from the west, he said.

Clashes erupted in the area early on Friday, Saleh Efhaima, a member of the eastern parliament, said by phone. By midday, defense brigades were about 30 kilometers (19 miles) west of Es Sider, while Haftar’s troops were about 20 kilometers to the east, he said. A leader in Haftar’s LNA forces said it still has control of the export facility.

Libyan oil production has been rising, with shipments from key ports resuming after many months of conflict. The nation pumped 700,000 barrels a day in February, almost double its output from a year earlier, according to data and estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The more it pumps, the greater the pressure on other members of OPEC to curb supply in order to eliminate a global oil glut.

The Benghazi Defense Brigades aren’t affiliated to United Nations-backed government in Tripoli. They are based in Jufra, on western edge of nation’s oil crescent, rather than the city of Benghazi, which is in the east.

Omran al-Hamali, a leader in Haftar’s LNA, said that Es Sider is under its control, and there are clashes going on about 7 kilometers west of the town.