Statoil launches Algerian probe

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Norwegian oil company Statoil has appointed retired Lt General Torgeir Hagen, former head of the military’s own intelligence agency, to lead the company’s own probe into the terrorist attack last month that left five of its workers dead at an Algerian gas plant. Statoil officials claim they want to learn how to further boost security at the company’s oil and gas installations.

Statoil's new team investigating the terrorist attack in Algeria last month includes (from left) Erling Kristian Handal, Adrian Fulcher, Randi Grung-Olsen, Leif D. Riis, Torgeir Hagen, James Bunn and Pål Eitrheim. PHOTO: Statoil/Ivar Langvik

Statoil’s new team investigating the terrorist attack in Algeria last month includes (from left) Erling Kristian Handal, Adrian Fulcher, Randi Grung-Olsen, Leif D. Riis, Torgeir Hagen, James Bunn and Pål Eitrheim. PHOTO: Statoil/Ivar Langvik

Hagen will lead a group of seven persons who will report back to Statoil’s management by September 15.

Statoil chairman Svein Rennemo stressed that the terrorists themselves are responsible for the attack that killed dozens of workers at the In-Amenas gas plant that Statoil operated with BP and Sonatrach. “Our responsibility is to learn and do what we can in the future to further strengthen security for our colleagues,” Rennemo said at a press conference at Statoil’s headquarters in Stavanger on Tuesday.

The group is charged with evaluating risk, security measures and preparedness at the Algerian gas plant. Emergency routines and cooperation with local authorities will also be evaluated.

“The main goal is to learn from what happened at In-Amenas,” Hagen told reporters.

Broad expertise
Hagen, age 63, was also a member of the government-appointed commission that investigated the emergency response to the terrorist attacks in Norway on July 22, 2011. He was head of the Norwegian military’s intelligence service Etterretningstjenesten (E-tjenesten) from 2002 until 2010 and Statoil said he has lengthy international experience.

He’ll be joined by Randi Grung-Olsen, senior vice president for corporate audit and internal investigation at Statoil, and Adrian Fulcher, a former director of counterterrorism who has worked for the British Diplomatic Service for nearly 30 years. Other members of Statoil’s special investigation team include Leif D Riis of the Norwegian Defense Estate Agency and several from Statoil’s own internal investigation unit, who all will be backed by an advisory expert group made up of other former military and intelligence gathering professionals in Norway, the US and Germany.

Rennemo gave them a mandate to determine the chain of events before, during and after the terrorist attack. “It has been important for us to obtain external expertise on terrorism and security that will contribute to this work,” he said. “We will also utilize the investigation expertise found in the company.”

Back in business
Production started cranking up again at the plant in southeastern Algeria late last week, following what Statoil and its operating partners claimed was a “detailed review of technical integrity, security and other conditions.” No employees from either Statoil or BP have been sent back to the facility, which was evacuated during the terrorist attack. Algerian partner Sonatrach is operating on behalf of the joint venture with locally based workers.

Statoil has appointed a new chief for Algerian operations, however, to replace Victor Sneberg, who was among those killed in the attacks. Bjørn Kåre Viken, former director at Statoil’s refinery at Mongstad in Norway, told newspaper Dagsavisen he will start working in Algeria from March 1.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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