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Algeria's El Merk Complex Starts Oil Production After Security Boost

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LONDON - El Merk oil complex in Algeria's Sahara, in a rare piece of positive news for the country's hydrocarbons sector after a January terrorist attack.

A terrorist hostage-taking at the In Amenas gas plant in January, which is operated by Sonatrach, the U.K.'s BP PLC and Norway's Statoil ASA, killed 40 oil workers. But the El Merk startup underscores how Algeria, a key oil and gas supplier to Europe, has been able to continue developing its resources after boosting security measures.

Algerian state news agency APS, citing sources close to the operation, said Anadarko and Sonatrach had started pumping from El Merk's fields in March but had only delivered its first oil outside the complex Friday. The complex, which includes a plant to process the hydrocarbons, will produce 127,000 barrels a day of crude oil and condensates by the end of this year, according to APS. Anadarko also said late Monday it had started production from El Merk.

Following the January attack on In Amenas, Anadarko Chief Executive Al Walker said the company had increased security at its operations in Algeria and that it had no intention to leave the country. Other companies, such as French oil and gas major Total SA, also have beefed up their security spending in the region.

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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