November 29, 2012 8:31 am

Protests shut Libyan oil refinery


TRIPOLI, November 29 – Protests at western Libya’s main oil refinery closed operations on Thursday for a second time this month, a company spokesman said, raising concerns of a gasoline shortage in the capital.

Essam al-Muntasir, of the Zawiya Oil Refining Company, said many wounded veterans of the civil war which ousted Muammer Gaddafi last year were demonstrating in front of the plant.

“We are in a state of total shutdown at the refinery,” he said.

“The demonstrators are preventing employees from entering the refinery and fuel trucks are unable to leave the refinery.”

A similar protest in early November caused the refinery to shut down for two days, leading to fuel shortages in Tripoli.

Deputy oil minister Omar Shakmak said on Wednesday that a shutdown at the refinery could cause a new shortage.

“We have enough fuel stored in Tripoli to last us 25 days, but the problem is that protesters are not allowing trucks in or out of the fuel storage areas of the refinery, which could cause a shortage,” he said.

Tripoli residents formed long queues at petrol stations to fill up their tanks on Wednesday night as they anticipated a possible shortage.

The Zawiya refinery, about 50km (30 miles) west of Tripoli, has a capacity of 120,000 barrels per day and provides 40 per cent of western Libya’s oil needs.

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