Algeria's In Amenas gas plant returning to normal after attack
OSLO, September 1, 2014
Normal operations are resuming at a major gas plant in Algeria, 18 months after a raid by Islamist militants killed 40 employees, with full output expected in a few months, one of the plant's operators said.
Norway's Statoil had kept its permanent workers away from the In Amenas plant, which it operates jointly with BP and Algeria's Sonatrach, after gunmen raided the site deep in the Sahara desert in January 2013.
They took foreign workers hostage in a four-day siege that ended when Algerian forces stormed the facility.
"The corporate executive committee has decided that ordinary rotation (of staff) is to be resumed at the plant as all defined security measures have been implemented," Statoil said in a statement.
Security at the plant, which produced about 11.5 per cent of Algeria's natural gas output before the attack, has been heightened, Statoil told Reuters. There is greater control of people coming near the installations and an airport has been built inside the site, it said.
A company investigation concluded last year the operators did not have the security measures necessary to deal with a major event.
"The investigative report pointed out that we relied too much on the presence of local forces," said Statoil spokesman Knut Rostad. "We have now an improved dialogue with Algerian security authorities and other authorities."
Last year's attackers travelled to the Algerian plant from Libya, which is racked by factional violence as the armed groups which helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 turn their guns on each other in a struggle to dominate politics and the country's vast oil resources.
"The general security situation in the region is challenging," said the spokesman. "Safety at the plant is greatly improved but we will continuously monitor the situation."
FULL OUTPUT WITHIN MONTHS
A return of In Amenas to full operations would free up more natural gas for Algeria to export.
Full output is expected with a few months, once the third and last processing train, damaged during the attack, is repaired. The other two trains are already in operation.
"The work to repair the third processing train is ongoing and it will take another few months before it is fixed, so that production can return to normal," said the spokesman.
"When the third processing train is back, we expect to return to full production."
Statoil's current share of production at In Amenas is 16,000 barrels of oil equivalent (boe) per day, against a level of 22,000 boe per day before the attack, he said.
The plant has a total production capacity of 9 billion cubic metres per year. -- Reuters