Statoil gas plant attacked in Algeria

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Rockets were fired Friday morning at a gas plant in Algeria that’s operated by three oil companies including Norway’s Statoil. The Krechba plant in the desert south of In Salah reportedly was attacked by an unidentified terrorist group.

Statoil's gas facility at Krechba handles processing from the southern portions of the In Salah oil field in Algeria. It also is known as a "green" gas facility, capturing and storing carbon dioxide underground. The gas is sent in pipes and sold mostly to customers in Europe. PHOTO: Statoil

Statoil’s gas facility at Krechba handles processing from the southern portions of the In Salah oil field in Algeria. It also is known as a “green” gas facility, capturing and storing carbon dioxide underground. The gas is sent in pipes and sold mostly to customers in Europe. PHOTO: Statoil

“Explosives were fired into the plant,” Statoil spokesman Bård Glad Pedersen, a former state secretary in the foreign ministry, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “We have been in contact with our three employees (at the plant). They are uninjured and taken into security.”

The Krechba plant is operated by Statoil, BP and Algeria’s own Sonatrach as part of their license on the In Salah oil field. It’s located around 200 kilometers from the main gas field In Salah, and far to the south of the capital of Algiers. Statoil describes the In Salah gas field as Algeria’s third-largest, with production capacity of 9 billion cubic meters per year.

Plant shut down
Three rounds of rockets reportedly were fired at the Krechba plant, which has around 600 workers, many of them foreigners. Pedersen said the plant was now shut down.

“We haven’t had any reports of injuries,” Pedersen told NRK. “We have no information on who was behind the attack.” He said the rockets were fired “from a distance” and that Statoil was working to gain a “better overview over what has happened.”

The company immediately mobilized its emergency response organization in Stavanger. Its joint venture organization along with partners in the plant was also mobilized in Algeria. Statoil, BP and Sonatrach commenced production at the Krechba, Reg and Teg fields in 2004.

Officials at Norway’s foreign ministry said they were aware of the attack and that security personnel and Algerian authorities had control over the plant. “We are in tight dialogue with Statoil,” Ane Haavardsdatter Lunde of the foreign ministry in Oslo told NRK.

Algerian media outlets were reporting that the Algerian army had acted quickly and prevented the terror group from getting inside the plant. One worker at the plant said the military was at the plant to reassure staff, according to website Algerie Focus.

Memories of In Amenas
Another Statoil plant at In Amenas in southeast Algeria was attacked in January 2013 by a radical Islamist group. Of the roughly 700 employees taken hostage, 40 were killed including five Statoil employees from Norway.

Statoil subsequently withdrew all personnel from its opeating plants in Algeria, but in July 2014, Statoil announced it was resuming activity.

Statoil officials said on Friday that they didn’t know whether there was any connection between the attack three years ago and the one on Friday. “We have no information about that now,” Pedersen said. “This is a completely different attack than what we saw at In Amenas. Here we’ve had explosives shot in from a distance.”

The terrorist group that attacked in 2013 has been active recently and has been tied to several attacks in West Africa, including shootings at a tourist hotel in the Ivory Coast last week.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund