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Algeria & Partners Agree on Extra Safety for In Amenas Gas Plant

Source: Algeria Times 4/15/2014, Location: Africa

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The partners of Algeria's In Amenas gas plant have agreed on the extra safety needed for the return of foreign staff after last year's deadly assault by Islamic militants, a top executive at co-owner Statoil said.

Attackers, operating from Libya, raided the site deep in the Sahara desert, taking foreign workers hostage in a four-day siege that ended when Algerian forces stormed the facility. Close to 40 staff died.

In a rare description of the talks between the plant's partners - Statoil, BP and Algeria's Sonatrach - a senior official at the Norwegian firm said the partners had agreed which extra measures were needed.

"You can group them in physical measures, organisational measures and operational measures," Lars Christian Bacher, Statoil's head of development and production international, told Reuters.

He declined to be drawn on the timing of a return of foreign staff. Algerian officials said in February it could take several months.

"When those actions have been closed, we will verify and then...we will approve re-entry," he said.

Monitoring intelligence reports of militants' movements in Southern Libya, which France said last week had become a "viper's nest" for Islamic militants, was part of the work to improve safety.

"We try to follow that development closely, definitely," Bacher said.

The facility is currently producing at two-thirds of its capacity of 30 million cubic metres per day, which produced 11.5 percent of Algeria's natural gas before the assault.

Bacher said the process had seen a "very good dialogue between the companies and very good progress".

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