By Ulf Laessing
BOURI OIL RIG, Libya, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Libya is producing almost 40,000 barrels a day at its Bouri offshore oilfield, jointly run with Italy's ENI, and plans to add up to 15,000 bpd within six months by launching new drilling technology, executives said on Wednesday.
Located some 130 km north of Tripoli in the Mediterranean Sea, the country's biggest offshore field has been unaffected by the wave of strikes, which have brought much of Libya's production and ports to a halt.
"There were some requests from employees for compensation for a certain period of time but we sorted it out so there is no strike, no stop in production," said Abdulhadi Ghrabali, the field's top manager.
The Bouri field, where production started in 1988, is run by the Mellitah Oil and Gas Company, a joint-venture of ENI and the state-owned National Oil Corp.
The field, comprising 38 wells, is currently pumping 37,914 bpd, of which 21,940 bpd come from its main "DP4" platform, he said. The 349 staff reside on two platforms and a tanker.
Output is slightly below the field's average of between 38,000 bpd and 40,000 bpd as the company is introducing new drilling technology with the help of U.S. firm Schlumberger , he said. Pressure on some wells had become too low after being in use for many years.
"We have to convert the wells from natural flow category to ... electric submersible pumps," Ghrabali told Reuters during a visit to the main oil rig.
Within six months, some 12 wells would be upgraded which would boost output by between 12,000 bpd and 15,000 bpd, company executives said.
In a second expansion step, Mellitah is planning to produce up to 50 million cubic feet of gas for export from the field, Ghrabali said, without giving a timeframe. The field now produces 109.7 million cubic feet of gas but all but 8.5 million is being wasted as flared up.
"We are putting gas compressors here," he told reporters, adding that gas will be routed to Mellitah's Sabratah gas offshore rig, located some 20 km away.
The Bouri field also plans by 2015 to get a new South Korean-made tanker for storage to replace its 1973-built Italian ship. It will have the same storage facility of 1.5 million barrels but better metering technology, he said.
A combination of strikes, militias and political activists have blocked the majority of Libya's oilfields and ports since the end of July and the government's fledgling army and police force has struggled to deal with armed protesters.
Oil output has risen to 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) and full production could be restored within days once the government resolves strikes that have blocked oilfields and ports, Libya's oil minister said last week.