Release date: 19 January 2013
You are all aware of the tragic events that have been taking place in Algeria over the past few days. For our people in Algeria and for their families and friends this has been, and continues to be a very distressing and harrowing time.
BP is a company which cares about its people; people who in turn care about and for each other. It has also been a time of enormous anxiety for all of us – their friends and colleagues at BP.
Confirmed information is still very hard to come by but I want to update you as much as I can.
I would like to take a few minutes to describe what has happened and our response. And then I have a short time to take some questions, as we are still actively coordinating many things, you will appreciate that.
Firstly I would like to give you some background on the In Amenas project.
This is a joint venture gas operation, many of you know this, it’s owned and managed by a joint venture consisting of the Algerian state oil and gas company Sonatrach, BP and Statoil. As you will know by now it is located in the eastern central region of Algeria, about 60 km west of the Libyan border.
It is a large worksite with a significant workforce. Citizens from more than 25 countries work at In Amenas. At any one time there might be a workforce of 500-700 on the In Amenas site. The great majority of these are Algerian nationals working directly for the joint venture, and for Sonatrach and contracting companies. They are supported by a smaller international workforce, again from contractors but also from BP and Statoil. BP typically has in the order of 20 expatriate staff working at In Amenas. In total BP generally has around 60 staff working in Algeria on any day.
Early last Wednesday, at around 0600 local time, this very remote site in the desert was attacked. This was followed by action by the Algerian military to regain control of the site.
Let me be very clear: this was an unprovoked violent assault by heavily-armed murderers.
At the time of the attack there were 18 directly employed BP people working at In Amenas. Over the past four days our efforts have been focused on doing everything we can in support of the effort to locate them and bring them to safety. We have also done all we can to support their families and loved ones through a time of terrible uncertainty, trying to provide information and facts and practical help as much as possible.
I hope you will understand that, to respect their and their families’ privacy and security, I am not prepared to comment on their identities at this time. The family members with whom I have spoken have confirmed this is their desire.
In this fluid and complex situation it is extremely difficult to gather reliable information – not just for BP and its partners, but also for governments and agencies of government. But right now, we can confirm that 14 of these 18 people are safe and secure. Two of these have sustained injuries, but these are not life-threatening and both are well.
However, so far neither the authorities on the ground, international governments nor BP have been able to confirm the location or situation of 4 of our people. As the situation continually changes, we are doing all we can to locate them, working with the relevant British and Algerian government authorities and agencies. While not confirmed, tragically, we have grave fears that we are likely to have suffered one or more fatalities.
In addition to this number, we are also concerned about members of the extended BP family who were at the site. This group includes workers directly contracted to the joint venture who may have previously been BP staff members, and of course to the wider group of staff from Statoil and of contracting firms working for us or for the joint venture. We are currently also working to learn details of the status and whereabouts of this broader group of individuals and provide whatever support and care may be requested.
For all the affected families this uncertainty is a terrible and agonising ordeal. All of us at BP feel for them, and they are closely in our thoughts. We are in regular contact with each family to provide them all the firm information we can. Each of the families of BP’s staff has a dedicated liaison officer, telephone helpline support and practical help. The police have also provided excellent support.
As the first details of this assault became clear, we mobilised our full emergency response system. We have teams on the ground in Algeria and in the UK who are liaising with other companies and parties involved. Our Board members and our Chairman, Carl Henric Svanberg, have all been involved and engaged. We are in very close touch with the UK government, other relevant governments, and colleagues in Statoil, Sonatrach, the Algerian energy ministry and the companies which are contractors to the joint venture.
We are very mindful that there are other people, working for other companies, whose fate is similarly currently unknown. We are working with these companies to coordinate support for their staff.
We are currently working through a staged process of bringing non-essential personnel out of Algeria on a temporary basis. 25 of the 60 people normally there have now left Algeria.
This departure of staff not essential to operations is a precautionary measure. BP has had a presence in Algeria for over 60 years and we have high quality assets and first class people in the country. We remain steadfastly supportive of Algeria and it is our current intention to return to normal operations there as and when the circumstances safely allow.
We have set up facilities to receive those returning, and are providing support as needed – such as counselling, practical assistance and advice.
As the situation in the desert developed, we also rapidly put in place the medical support that could be needed in the response. This included extensive medevac capability – working in close coordination with suppliers, Statoil and the UK and Norwegian governments to ensure that medically-equipped and staffed aircraft of varying sizes are available and were put in the in the right places to enter and leave Algeria as flexibly as possible. We have also provided medical support for returning employees. And I am in regular contact with Statoil’s CEO, Helge Lund.
I would like to thank the UK government and authorities for the help and support we have received from them through these very difficult days. We have been in regular contact with the UK government from the highest level down and have received direct support from the Foreign Office, the security services, the Metropolitan Police and others. I have spoken with Prime Minister Cameron on a number of occasions and his support has been very welcome. We have also received support from the governments in the US, in Norway and elsewhere. And I also want to thank the Algerian Minister of Energy, Mr. Youcef Yousfi for his constant direct assistance.
We have not experienced an attack on any such facilities on this scale before. As a precautionary measure we are of course, reviewing security at our other locations and operations in the region and elsewhere around the world. There will undoubtedly be government investigations into the horrendous events of the past few days. And we will participate in them fully.
While this situation has evolved, it may still be some time before we have the clarity we all desire. Our focus remains on those of our colleagues who we have not yet been able to locate and on supporting their families through painful uncertainty. BP is a company that cares about its people – this remains a very difficult and sad time for me and for the BP family across the world.