BREAKING NEWS: In Amenas gas field could be run by Algerians - former Oil Minister
BY SELINA WILLIAMS
LONDON--Algeria's stricken In Amenas gas facility, where militants took Western hostages following an attack on the facility Wednesday, could be run by local staff if foreign workers are reluctant to return to work in the country after the crisis is resolved, the country's former oil minister said Friday.
The In Amenas natural gas facility, which is operated by BP, Statoil and Algerian state oil company Sonatrach, has been shut down since Wednesday. BP said earlier Friday it had already evacuated hundreds of workers from international oil companies alongside 11 of its own staff and that more would follow. Other Western oil companies operating at other oil fields in Algeria said they were closely monitoring the situation.
The oil industry is reeling from the Wednesday attack, which U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron described as large and well-coordinated. A Thursday raid by Algerian government forces resulted in more casualties. BP said the situation remained ongoing.
"The number of expats working there is already very small. They're there to represent the interests of the companies and aren't needed on a full-time basis," said former Algerian Oil Minister Chakib Khelil.
Expatriates could periodically travel to the plants for short periods to check up on the facility instead of being based there more permanently.
Mr. Khelil's comments are important for the oil industry and could present a temporary solution for Western oil companies to maintain their presence in the country while the current crisis is resolved and security issues are addressed longer term.
Keeping production going at Algerian oil and gas facilities is important for global energy supplies and prices.
Algeria is Europe's third-largest gas supplier, after Russia and Norway, with most of its piped gas flowing to Italy and its liquefied natural gas shipped globally.
A member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, it is also a key producer of high-quality crude oil that is easy to refine into high-value gasoline.
Around 700 staff work at In Amenas, which is located in Algeria's southern desert area and was up until the attack considered to be relatively secure, albeit high risk. Around 40 of those staff are expatriates and predominantly hold managerial and strategic roles.
"Most of the day-to-day operations at the plant are already being done by Algerian technicians, engineers and so forth," said Mr. Khelil, who was minister from 1999 to 2010 and has detailed knowledge of the country's oil and gas installations.
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