The 16 January Islamist raid on Algeria’s In Amenas gas plant and the Algerian government’s subsequent attempts to retake the facility left several foreign workers dead. It is too soon to be clear on the long-term impact of the attacks. But some foreign oil and gas firms are reviewing their position in the country. BP, joint operator of the 8bcm/y In Amenas wet gas project with Norway’s Statoil and Algerian state firm Sonatrach, says it is “temporarily” withdrawing “non-essential” staff from Algeria. The UK firm’s other key Algerian interest – 8bcm/y production at In Saleh in the country’s deep southwest, also jointly operated with Statoil – is similarly vulnerable to Sahara-based attack. Statoil is also withdrawing workers from both facilities. Spain’s Cepsa, which operates the 200,000 b/d Ourhoud oil field, Algeria’s second largest, also plans to evacuate staff, according to Reuters.

The center of gravity of Algeria’s oil and gas production is moving further south into the sparsely-populated Sahara, leaving the country more and more vulnerable to the overflow of instability in Mali and Niger to the south. Hydrocarbons account for 60% of Algeria’s GDP and 97% of exports. In Amenas is 1,300 km southeast of Algiers, and acreage being opened up by the country’s frontier Southwest Gas Project is at least as remote (MEES, 23 November 2012). (CONTINUED - 1121 WORDS)