* Risk analysis team focuses on North and East Africa
* Members include former intelligence personnel
By Ron Bousso
LONDON, Sept 12 Norway's Statoil is
setting up a political and security risk analysis team to
protect employees and assets in global hotspots after failing to
foresee a deadly attack in Algeria earlier this year, company
The oil and gas major said in a report on Thursday that it
missed a string of warning signs in the lead up to the January
attack by Islamist militants on the In Amenas gas facility deep
in the Sahara desert.
Some 40 workers, including five Statoil employees, were
killed during the four-day siege that ended when the Algerian
army raided the plant.
"The attack was a watershed moment for Statoil," a company
source said. "Security and political risk was largely outsourced
before then and it is now being brought back home."
Statoil had for years employed a political risk unit in Oslo
forming part of the communications department as "it was
perceived as more of a PR issue", the source said.
The new political risk and security threat assessment team,
part of Statoil's global strategy department, is being formed in
London and headed by Geir Westgaard, a former diplomat.
It includes analysts and former Western intelligence
personnel focused on North Africa, East Africa, Central Asia and
China, key investment regions for the company, according to
"This was an immediate reaction to what happened in Algeria.
Unless we have a really good handle on what the risks are in
countries we operate in, we will be disadvantaged," another
source close to the new team said.
Statoil is developing a $10 billion liquefied natural gas
(LNG) terminal in Tanzania, though the project has become
divisive due to fears energy could prove to be a "resource
curse", bringing the kind of unrest experienced by the
Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria.
"As energy and security become more closely linked in
people's minds, the recognition that they need to bolster the
security and political risk analysis has become clear," he said.
Statoil staff have yet to return to the In Amenas plant, a
joint venture with BP, with neighbouring Libya having
become "a large ungoverned space" and Mali having developed into
a "safe haven for jihadists and terrorists", the report said.
"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".
Oil companies around the world face growing political and
security instability in the Middle East and North Africa as a
result of the Arab Spring uprisings, a senior industry source
"Companies have been used to risks for a long time but risks
are increasing, especially in the Middle East. But under
dictatorships, things were easy because you dealt with one
person ... now you need to deal with countless parties and you
don't really know who calls the shots," he said.
"It takes a lot more sophistication and granular knowledge
on the ground to make business," he added.
Other oil majors, including Royal Dutch Shell and
BP, already have political risk divisions.
France's Total is considering forming a new
political and security risk division in London to expand its
Paris-based analysis team that is part of the public
communication department, company sources said.
A Statoil spokesman did not respond to queries by telephone