Clashes between rival tribal and militia groups have shutdown natural gas exports to Italy from the Mellitah Oil & Gas (MOG) for the first time since Libya’s 2011 civil war.

Although no damage was caused to the gas export pipeline, the company’s foreign employees were evacuated as a precaution following the outbreak of violence, although it lasted only one day.

MOG is a joint venture of state-owned National Oil Corporation (NOC) and Italy’s Eni. It operates two plants, treating oil and condensates from the Wafa field and gas from the offshore Sabratha platform.

The Mellitah facilities are dedicated to processing and exporting oil and gas from the onshore Wafa and offshore Bouri and Bahr Essalam fields. The complex is made up of two plants: the Wafa coastal plant, which treats the oil and condensates produced at Wafa, and the Mellitah plant, which processes the gas and condensates produced at Bahr Essalam.

Gas from the Mellitah complex is transported to the Greenstream gas compression facilities, based at the same site, before being pumped to Sicily and onto mainland Italy.

The complex is situated in the northwest town of Zawara, 110 kilometres from Tripoli and is currently guarded by militiamen from the town of Zintan, the first group of rebels which took over Tripoli in August 2011.

The Defence Ministry has now sent its own personnel to takeover security at the complex. It established an 8,000-strong oil field defence force with the Oil Ministry at the end of 2012 to protect the country’s hydrocarbon infrastructure.

This is the second disruption to Libya’s main oil and gas export infrastructure since the 2011 civil war. In December, the 70,000 barrel a day (b/d) Zueitina oil export terminal was shut down by due to protests.

The disruption is a major concern for international oil and gas engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) firms hoping to win work in Libya. MOG is currently prequalifying EPC firms for the sector’s biggest potential deal, which it hopes to tender before the middle of the year.

On 28 February, EPC firms submitted their prequalification documents for a contract to design an offshore platform at the NC-41 concession, about 75 kilometres off the coast in waters with depths of 93-145 metres and onshore gas processing facilities.

The offshore platform will include gas separation and dehydration facilities, which will process 160 million cubic feet a day (cf/d) of gas. Once processed, the dehydrated gas and partially stabilised condensate will be exported to the onshore Mellitah complex through two dedicated subsea pipelines for final treatment.