News / Economy

Statoil Reveals Chronically Weak Security at Algerian Plant Before Attack

FILE - A checkpoint at the entrance of a gas field near Zarzaitine in Ain Amenas, southeast of Algiers, Algeria, Jan. 22, 2013.
FILE - A checkpoint at the entrance of a gas field near Zarzaitine in Ain Amenas, southeast of Algiers, Algeria, Jan. 22, 2013.
Reuters
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 unprecedented scale.
 
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 defense 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 prioritized, 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.
 
No dialogue
 
The crisis took place, the report noted, in a deteriorating security context, as neighboring 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 dialog 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 firm Sonatrach.
 
“In effect it meant that there were two parallel security organizations operating at the site, not always with a high degree of mutual respect, trust and collaboration,” the report said.
 
Against this background, it would hardly be surprising if the attackers had benefited from some inside knowledge, the report concluded.
 
“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,” the report 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 nine billion cubic meters 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.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8836
JPY
USD
118.88
GBP
USD
0.6451
CAD
USD
1.2469
INR
USD
61.751

Rates may not be current.