Algeria hostage crisis: Libya, Egypt review security at oil facilities

21 January 2013, Sweetcrude, Cairo – Libya and Egypt rushed to beef up security at oil fields and energy facilities following threat by Islamist militants to attack new installations in north Africa.

This is in the aftermaths of the Algerian hostage saga. More than 20 foreigners were still being held hostage or missing inside Algeria’s In Amenas gas plant on Friday after Algerian forces stormed the desert complex near the Libyan border to free hundreds of captives taken by Islamist militants, Reuters reported.

Hundreds of workers were evacuated from a number of Algerian production sites on the border with Libya to safer places in the country’s centre and industry experts said that could ultimately lead to lower oil and gas production from the OPEC member state.

Libya and Algeria are Africa’s third and fourth largest oil producers with Libya also the largest oil reserves holder on the continent.

Together with Egypt they are important gas suppliers to Europe and the budgets of all three countries are heavily dependent on energy revenues.

Libya’s oil protection force, affiliated with the defence ministry, said there had been no reports of incursions into its oilfields, where more guards and military personal had been deployed and security patrols intensified inside and around the sites around the clock.

“Due to events in the region, the Petroleum Faculty Guard has taken a series of actions to enhance and reinforce the protection of oilfields, facilities and employees in the western and southern regions of Libya,” it said.

A Western security adviser working in Libya said by telephone he was not sure that would immediately boost security, since the oil protection force, set up after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, was at an “embryonic stage”.

Libya’s National Oil Corporation chairman Nuri Berruien confirmed increased security measures at fields on the Algerian border.

Some Libyan oil fields such as Italy’s Eni’s Elephant are located several hundreds of kilometers (miles) across the desert from In Amenas, where the hostage tragedy unfolded this week.

The militants said they attacked the facility in retaliation for France’s intervention in neighbouring Mali and warned Algerians to stay away from sites with a foreign presence.

In Egypt, thousands of kilometers away from In Amenas, the oil industry is unease.

“If there is a critical situation (in Egypt) we will take measures including staff evacuation. At the moment, everything is under control,” a spokesman for Russian oil major LUKOIL said.

Royal Dutch/Shell, which has a heavy presence in Egypt, said it was looking carefully at the geopolitical situation to make appropriate security arrangements, but declined specific country-related comments.

Chief executive of global oilfield services major Schlumberger, Paal Kibsgaard, told a conference call on Friday security in the entire region was under renewed scrutiny.

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