Yemen LNG evacuates some staff after minor explosion

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 09, 2013 1:17 AM

ABU DHABI/PARIS (Reuters) - Yemen LNG has evacuated some foreign staff after an explosion last week at its plant at Balhaf, a company employee and a spokesman for French stakeholder Total said.

Violence is common in Yemen, where an interim government is fighting southern secessionists and northern Houthi rebels, as well as al Qaeda-linked militants seeking to overthrow the government and impose their version of Islamic law.

The Balhaf gas export terminal, Yemen's largest industrial project ever, ships liquefied natural gas (LNG), primarily to Asia, and to some European countries. Attacks on pipelines feeding the facility interrupted exports earlier this year.

"Some employees were flown to Dubai and others to Djibouti but the plant is still functioning," one Yemen LNG employee told Reuters late on Sunday. "They were evacuated just as a precautionary measure."

A Total spokesman confirmed that a partial evacuation of Yemen LNG was likely to have been spread over Friday and Saturday. The official said the evacuation was related to Friday's incident.

Yemen LNG said operations were uninterrupted after the minor explosion on Friday.

The blast at Balhaf came a day after 56 people were killed in an attack by an al Qaeda-affiliated group on the Defence Ministry compound in the capital, Sanaa.

"There were no casualties and the explosion caused only slight damage to non-essential equipment," the company said on its website. It did not say what caused the explosion, but added it was being investigated.

A Yemen LNG spokesperson was not immediately available to comment on the evacuations.

The Balhaf facility, opened in 2009, is heavily guarded by Yemeni troops. It supplies gas cooled to liquid for export by ship under long-term contracts to GDF Suez, Total and Korea Gas Corp.

France's Total holds a 39.6 percent stake in Yemen LNG, while Hunt Oil holds a stake of 17.2 percent.

Shabwa Province, a lawless and rugged part of Yemen where the gas facility is located, has seen many attacks by Islamist militants on government facilities and security forces.

In August, suspected al Qaeda militants killed four Yemeni soldiers in their sleep in an attack on forces guarding the terminal.

(Reporting by Maha El Dahan and Muriel Boselli; Editing by Tom Hogue)