Statoil weeks from deciding on returning gas workers to In Amenas

OSLO, July 24 Thu Jul 24, 2014 2:54am EDT

OSLO, July 24 (Reuters) - Norway's Statoil has sent up to 10 workers to Algeria's In Amenas gas plant to review new security measures after a militant attack last year, and could decide within weeks whether to permanently return staff to the site, the firm said on Thursday.

Statoil has kept permanent workers away from the plant since Islamist militants, operating from Libya, raided the site deep in the Sahara desert in January 2013, taking foreign workers hostage in a four-day siege that ended when Algerian forces stormed the facility.

Forty staff, including 39 foreigners, died.

"In June we returned five to 10 people on a temporary rotation," Statoil spokesman Knut Rostad said, confirming a report in daily Dagens Naeringsliv. "Their task is to ensure that the new security measures are implemented."

Rostad said the firm could make a decision in "some weeks" on the quality of the new safety and security systems and whether it would return permanent gas workers.

Statoil and BP operate the facility jointly with Sonatrach.

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 operation, which frees up more of the fuel for export to Europe. (Reporting by Balazs Koranyi; Editing by David Holmes)

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