* Reveals plant workers were on strike since mid 2012
* Threats to expats didn't prompt to change threat level
* Says security generally not well understood by Statoil
* CEO says won't resign over report
By Balazs Koranyi and Henrik Stolen
OSLO, Sept 12 Oil major Statoil missed
multiple warning signs and failed to foresee or prepare for
incidents like January's deadly attack at an Algerian plant in
January, an internal company investigation said, painting a
picture of chronic security problems at the site.
Some 40 workers, including five Statoil workers, were killed
when Islamist militants raided the In Amenas gas plant deep in
the Sahara desert, near the Libyan border, taking foreign
workers hostage in a four-day siege that ended when Algerian
forces stormed the plant.
Statoil and BP, its partner in the In Amenas venture,
have said it was impossible to predict an attack of such
The Statoil report, however, shows that security at the
plant was inadequately managed and revealed for the first time
that the facility was struggling with an internal crisis;
workers were on strike from mid-2012 until just days before the
assault, and some had threatened expatriate employees.
Statoil's board commissioned the report from a panel of
internal officers and external international defence and
security experts including a former acting director of the CIA,
John E McLaughlin.
"Although unforeseen and unprecedented, an attack on In
Amenas should not have been entirely inconceivable," the 78-page
report said in a section titled "Failure of Imagination".
"Despite the turmoil in the region, the In Amenas joint
venture operated on an unchanged threat level from February 2012
until the attack," the report said.
The 78-page report concluded: "Security is generally not
well understood within Statoil's leadership ranks, and as a
result has not been prioritised, resourced or managed properly."
Statoil Chief Executive Helge Lund acknowledged the report
and said he did not plan to resign. Chairman Svein Rennemo said
the board had full confidence in Statoil's management.
"Before the investigation started, Lund said he was the man
in charge and he was responsible," said Hilde-Marit Rysst, the
head of Norwegian energy union SAFE.
"He needs to consider his position after this report, he
should consider stepping down," she said.
The crisis took place, the report noted, in a deteriorating
security context, as neighbouring Libya had become "a large
ungoverned space", and Mali had "developed into a safe haven for
jihadists and terrorists".
Algeria's oil industry relies heavily on foreign investment
and needs billions of dollars in new investment to revive
stalled growth and keep supplying Europe with oil and gas.
BP and Statoil have yet to send their expatriate workers
back to the plant. Algeria has not done enough to remove their
concerns about security, they say.
"There has not been any high-level strategic security
dialogue with Algerian authorities involving the companies,"
said the report, released on Thursday.
The report showed security at the plant was divided into an
internal layer, for which the joint venture was responsible, and
an external layer provided by the army.
Complicating the situation, security inside the facility was
provided by an external contractor, and then some responsibility
was transferred to the security unit of Algeria's state energy
"In effect it meant that there were two parallel security
organisations operating at the site, not always with a high
degree of mutual respect, trust and collaboration," the report
Against this background, it would hardly be surprising if
the attackers had benefited from some inside knowledge, the
"The extended strike reduced internal security resilience,
eroded loyalty and morale among some of the employees," it said.
"Information from interviewees indicates that the terrorists
... knew which sites to drive to, which offices to target, and
they searched for a few people by name."
Finally, internal security had limited exchange of
information with the army and relied too heavily on local
authorities for protection, the investigation concluded.
"Neither Statoil nor the joint venture could have prevented
the attack, but there is reason to question the extent of their
reliance on Algerian military protection," it said.
The plant usually employs around 700 people, mostly
Algerians, and at the time of the siege BP had about 20 people
on site, while Statoil had 17. There were also dozens of foreign
subcontractors on the site.
Responding to the report, BP said agreement on further
security measures was still needed before people could return.
"There are many questions arising which BP is not in a
position to answer, including how the terrorists were able to
breach the military zone to attack the plant," BP said.
BP also said it had no evidence that the workers' strike had
any connection to the attack.
"BP was not aware of any specific threat against the plant
or British or Western interests in the area prior to the
attack," it said.
Officials in Algiers could not immediately be reached for
comment. One industry official close to the talks with the
energy firms said a return of expatriate workers was close, but
there were outstanding matters to resolve.
Algerian officials have in the past said they have met all
security demands made by the companies.
The facility, operated by BP, Statoil and Sonatrach, was
producing about 9 billion cubic metres of gas per year, some
11.5 percent of Algeria's total, but it continues to run below
capacity as it sustained major damage in the attack.