A deal has been reached to reopen Libya’s 70,000 barrel-per-day El Feel oil field, which was shut by a dispute on Feb. 23, the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) said March 7.

“It has been agreed to reopen El Feel oil field,” PFG spokesman Taha Ghrouda said, adding that from early March 8 the PFG “will return and production will be resumed, too.”

An engineer in the field also told Reuters that preparations were being made for production to restart March 8 and that some workers who had been staying nearby had returned to the field.

The oil field was shut and evacuated after PFG withdrew from El Feel to push demands over pay and other benefits. State-owned National Oil Corp. (NOC) said PFG members had threatened staff, tampered with papers and shot in the air.

NOC declared force majeure on loadings of Mellitah crude on Feb. 24. The NOC operates El Feel in a joint venture with Italy's Eni. There was no immediate comment from the NOC.

The announcement of the planned restart followed the arrest March 6 of a senior PFG commander from El Feel, who was held in Tripoli for questioning, according to several sources familiar with the case

The NOC has tried to end a practice of blockading oil fields, pipelines and ports across Libya by seeking prosecution against blockaders. It was pushing for the PFG commander to remain in jail despite pressure for him to be released, the sources said.

PFG spokesman Ghrouda said the agreement to restart was concluded by PFG head Idris Bukhamada and that a military committee had been formed to follow up on the guards' demands. Those included basic needs such as tyres and fuel for vehicles and provision of daily subsistence, Ghrouda said.

A restart would restore Libya’s output to recent levels at over one million barrels per day, after stoppages at El Feel and the nearby Sharara oil field shook confidence in a partial but steady recovery of Libya’s production since 2016.

Sharara, which produces around 300,000 bbl/d, was operating normally March 7, a field engineer said, two days after it reopened following a 24-hour stoppage.