(Adds more background, production data)
ALGIERS, June 28 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)