Statoil returns to terror-hit In Amenas

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Around 10 Statoil workers have returned to its jointly-owned gas processing plant at In Amenas, Algeria, which was targeted by radical Islamists last year. Five Norwegian Statoil employees were among the 40 killed during the terrorist attack.

Statoil sent the employees back last month to work on security at the site, reported newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). “Corporate management decided in June to return temporary staffing to In Amenas,” said Statoil’s international operations spokesman Knut Rostad. “Those who have now returned will ensure that the last outstanding safety improvements are implemented before a return to ordinary operations can be adopted.”

Statoil spent the past year improving the site security by implementing a new safety plan and improving communication with Algerian authorities. A commission set up by the Statoil board following the attack in January 2013 criticized Statoil and co-owners BP and Algerian oil company Sonatrach for the lack of security measures at In Amenas, and questioned whether they’d relied too heavily on military protection.

“Statoil has ensured that all recommendations from the In Amenas investigation are implemented in the enhanced security system in Algeria,” Rostad said.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said chief union representative Bjørn Asle Teige from the Safe at Statoil group. “I myself was on an inspection at (Algerian gas field) In Salah just before Christmas to see an equivalent security arrangement to that at In Amenas. We feel the management has implemented many good initiatives, but it must now ensure it has access to intelligence information.”

Analyst Christian Yggeseth from Arctic Securities said with Statoil’s geographic spread it was difficult to avoid the risk of terror attacks, but it had learned an important lesson and improved safety. He said Algeria was a key part of Statoil’s portfolio. “There are possibilities to extract shale gas in Algeria, but for Statoil the geographic location of Algeria is the most important,” Yggeseth said. “You can easily get to southern Europe, and Statoil wants to be a leading gas supplier to Europe.”

However, Yggeseth said neighbouring Libya was still a high security risk, and Statoil should not conduct business there. Statoil has interests in the Mabruk field and Murzuq basin, and has lost more than NOK 160 million closing oil fields in Libya.

newsinenglish.no staff