UPDATE 1-Foreign oil workers return to work at Algeria's In Amenas gas plant - source

Sat Jun 28, 2014 9:45am EDT

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ALGIERS, June 28 (Reuters) - Foreign oil workers are returning to work at Algeria's In Amenas gas plant nearly a year and a half after the Islamist militant attack there that killed 40 people, a source at Algerian state energy company Sonatrach said on Saturday.

"Twelve expatriate workers are already at the gas facility and more are expected progressively," the source said without giving details on their nationalities.

Norway's Statoil and BP, which operate the facility with Sonatrach, had demanded improved security before returning workers. Forty oil contractors, all but one foreign, died in January 2013 after militants took expatriates hostage during a four-day siege that ended when Algerian forces stormed the site.

In Amenas produced about 11.5 percent of Algeria's natural gas output before the attack and the North African state has been steadily bringing the plant back to full resumption, which frees up more of the fuel for export to Europe.

Algeria will hold a new energy bidding round later this year when it hopes to attract more foreign oil companies to help bolster its stagnant oil and gas production. After the In Amenas attack, security was a major doubt for investors.

Statoil said late last year some of its staff had returned on a permanent basis to its operational centre at Hassi Messaoud, some 700 km (435 miles) to the southeast of Algiers but that it would take more time to return to In Amenas. (Reporting by Algiers newsroom; writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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