U.S. team helps tackle nine-day Algerian gas well fire

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U.S. team helps tackle nine-day Algerian gas well fire 01/26/00

ALGIERS, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Algerian state-owned gas and oil firm Sonatrach said on Wednesday U.S. experts and equipment had been flown to the country to help put out a nine-day fire still raging at a well in Hassi R'mel's giant gas field.

But Sonatrach, in a statement faxed to Reuters, said that that ouput and export flows were unaffected by the fire.

``The close collaboration between Boots and Coots' experts and Sonatrach's specialists made the work advance speedily,'' it added. Boots and Coots is a subsidiary of U.S.-based Halliburton Co (HAL.N). Sonatrach said it had purchased U.S. firefighting equipment and rushed them to southern Algeria on a special flight three days ago. A team of U.S. experts had arrived to the blaze site four days earlier. The fire hit the HR64 gas well within Algeria's Hassi R'mel main gas field on January 18 during a work-over operation.

``The fire broke out at 1:20 a.m (0020 GMT) on January 18. A metal rod ejected under the effect of vibration and caused a spark during its free fall. The spark caused the fire,'' it said.

The well has a daily production capacity of one million cubic metres. It is located on the periphery of Hassi R'mel field which produces most of Algeria's gas.

``Sonatrach's custumers are supplied normally with gas produced from Hassi R'mel, either through transcontinental gas pipelines or through gas tankers from the liquified natural gas complexes in Arzew and Skikda,'' the Sonatrach statement said.

The western port-city of Arzew and Skikda, in the east, are Algeria's main gas and oil export outlets.

``The operations launched on the blaze will very shortly lead to the full control of the eruption,'' the statement said.

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