The refinery was the last major source of oil for the Gaddafi regime and unless his forces can counter attack it is another nail in the coffin for his rule.
Fighting is still going on in Zawiya itself, which is only 50km west of Tripoli. There are not many strong defensive points along the coast road to Tripoli and any concentration of pro-Gaddafi forces is likely to get hammered by NATO air strikes.
The Secretary of the General Peoples Congress (Prime Minister) Baghdadi al-Mahmudi said earlier that government forces were in control of the refinery.
However BCC reporter Rupert Wingfield-Hayes has been taken on a tour of the captured facility by rebel fighters. He said that the nearest pro-Gaddafi forces were several miles away.
He said “I’m in the back of a rebel pick-up truck now, driving just past the entrance to the Zawiya oil refinery. A few days ago, this place was in the hands of Col Gaddafi’s forces.”
“I can see some of their burnt-out pick-up trucks with the remains of a large machine gun. There’s clearly been a fierce fight here, but this place is now under the control of rebel forces.”
If Zawiya falls then Tripoli is effectively surrounded and cut off from Tunisia where some of his aid comes from.
There are muammarings that the end is nigh.