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Damaged Algeria Gas Plant at Full Capacity in Weeks

Source: Algeria Times 1/22/2014, Location: Africa

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Algeria's In Amenas gas plant which was damaged by heavily armed jihadists during a bloody hostage crisis one year ago will reach full capacity in weeks, the energy minister said.

"The Tiguentourine complex is currently functioning at two thirds of capacity and will reach its optimum production level in a few weeks," Youcef Yousfi told a news conference in Algiers.

Militants stormed the isolated gas plant, which lies 1,300 kilometres (800 miles) southeast of Algiers and is one of the country's largest upstream facilities, on January 16, 2013, with around 40 hostages killed in a four-day siege and the army rescue operation that followed.

One of the three trains was badly damaged when the assailants detonated explosives to kill a number of hostages they had chained to the facility.

The repair work to bring the plant back to full production, of around 9 billion cubic metres per year, was done "using Sonatrach's own means, but in close collaboration with our (foreign) partners," the minister said.

Algeria's state-run energy giant runs the gas plant with Norway's Statoil and Britain's BP, while Japanese engineering firm JGC worked there as a subcontractor.

Asked when those firms would send staff back to the plant, Yousfi said it was for them to decide, and not for him to announce their return, but he added that all the companies were back in Algeria.

"We will continue to work with our partners, even if they are not physically present at the sites."

Security remains a paramount concern for foreign firms contemplating returning to In Amenas, given the ongoing threat posed by Al-Qaeda-linked groups in nearby Libya and across the Sahara region.

The security of all personnel at Algeria's energy facilities is set to remain in the hands of the Algerian military, something foreign companies operating at In Amenas have expressed misgivings about.

To better protect expatriates working at the complex, a landing strip is being built to provide a safer passage to and from the site.

Yousfi said a "thwarted" attack on Sonatrach subsidiary ENAGEO, which took place on Monday between In Amenas and Illizi, 200 kilometres to the south, according to local media, was quite common in Algeria's remote desert regions.

"They stole their car and their radio. We don't know if they were terrorists or bandits, but luckily no one was killed or wounded."

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