Statoil is reported to have returned several workers to the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria in the first deployment of personnel since last year’s deadly terrorist attack at the desert facility in which five of its staff were killed.
The Norwegian state-owned giant last month sent a contingent of 10 personnel on a temporary rotation – including both foreign nationals and Norwegians – to ensure the security of the facility about 18 months after the attack, Upstream's sister publication Dagens Naeringsliv reported.
A Statoil spokesman was quoted as saying the group would “ensure the final remaining security improvements are implemented before a return to normal operations can be approved”, while not revealing a timeline for a full return of staff.
However, he told Reuters separately that a decision could be made "within weeks" on whether to return permanent workers to the site.
The five Statoil employees were among 40 workers killed after heavily armed Islamist terrorists attacked the plant in January last year and took around 700 staff hostage before Algerian forces stormed the facility to end a three-day stand-off.
Production from the three-train facility, operated by a joint venture of BP, Statoil and state-owned Sonatrach, was shut down in the wake of the assault but was earlier this year reported to be running at around 20 million cubic metres per day – two-thirds of its 30 MMcfd capacity – as work was being carried out to repair the third train that was damaged in the attack.
Statoil, which had 17 employees at the plant at the time of the attack, was criticised for having insufficient security measures in place and relaying too heavily on protection from the Algerian military in a report from an external investigation released last year.
The Statoil spokesman said the company had been working on improved measures that included a “new security concept” as well as better dialogue on security with the Algerian authorities.
The company, which evacuated its foreign staff from Algeria after the attack, resumed full operations earlier this year at the country’s In Salah gas plant, also run in a joint venture with BP and Sonatrach, while it is also working at the Hassi Mouina gas field.