Yemen sends soldiers to protect its LNG

DUBAI Thu Jun 21, 2012 10:49am EDT

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Yemeni soldiers have been deployed to protect the gas pipeline feeding the Yemen LNG export terminal, its energy minister said on Thursday, as the country tries to shield its biggest industrial asset from further attacks.

Yemen's oil and gas pipelines have been repeatedly sabotaged since anti-government protests created a power vacuum in 2011 that armed groups have exploited, causing fuel shortages and slashing export earnings for the impoverished country.

The 320-km (199 miles) pipeline that supplies the $4.5-billion plant run by France's Total has been attacked several times this spring by suspected al Qaeda-linked gunmen after military strikes on Islamist militants.

The pipeline that transports gas from fields in the interior to the export facilities in Balhaf was attacked in late April, just days after reopening following a previous attack, in response to the killing of al Qaeda militants.

"We have intensified security on the gas pipeline and there are large numbers of soldiers guarding the export port and the pipeline," Yemeni Energy Minister Saleh Sumai said in an interview.

The pipeline that transports gas from fields in the interior to the export facilities in Balhaf was attacked in late April, just days after reopening following a previous attack, in response to the killing of al Qaeda militants.

Yemen LNG resumed production on May 23 after its latest pipeline repair and there have been no more reported attacks several weeks into a U.S.-backed offensive against militants.

Yemen's only gas export facility, which opened in 2009, has the capacity to supply up to 6.7 million tonnes of LNG per year.

Top oil producer Saudi Arabia has been donating refined oil products to Yemen since a series of attacks on its poor neighbor's oil infrastructure caused fuel shortages last year.

Sumai said Yemen did not expect any more Saudi donations and the government was expecting to have to spend around $750 million to import diesel, jet fuel and fuel oil over the next two months.

"Saudi Arabia will not make any more gifts to Yemen, but we have enough (gasoline) supplies for two months," he said.

(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari writing by Daniel Fineren; editing by James Jukwey)

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