TRIPOLI, May 6 (Reuters) - Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) has denied its eastern subsidiary has reduced oil production due to protests that have closed off its headquarters for nearly two weeks but the unit maintained on Sunday that it had cut output.
A spokesman for Benghazi-based Arabian Gulf Oil Company (Agoco) said on Saturday it had cut output by 30,000 barrels per day since Thursday, in a setback for Libya’s oil industry, which has recovered well since the end of last year’s conflict that ousted Muammar Gaddafi.
In a statement on its website, the NOC said Agoco’s crude oil production “remains the same”.
Agoco spokesman Abdeljalil Mayuf reiterated on Sunday that production was at 340,000 bpd from 370,000 bpd earlier in the week.
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 demanding more jobs for young people.
Meetings have been held between civil society groups and the demonstrators, who have pitched a tent outside Agoco’s office, but these have failed to end the protests. Agoco had threatened to cut production if no solution was found by May 3.
Mayuf said a meeting had been held on Saturday with the Benghazi high security committee, representatives of the protesters and Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chairman of the ruling National Transitional Council, over the matter.
“We are still in the same situation, we are waiting for a solution,” Mayuf said.
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 output by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in April, despite a drop in Iranian supply.
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 the NOC. (Reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Anthony Barker)