Algeria is set to start offshore exploitation by the end of 2014, according to Algerian energy minister Youcef Yousfi, who spoke on the sideline of an energy event held in Hassi Messaoud.
“We expect to start the drilling operations of the first offshore rig in the Mediterranean Sea by (the end of) 2014 (or) early 2015,” the Algerian Press Agency quoted Yousfi as saying. “Once we finalize the ongoing study, we will start the drilling operations.”
The plan is in line with Algiers' policy to diversify its exploration efforts and boost conventional hydrocarbons reserves. While Sonatrach had pledged to drill its first offshore well in 2013, a program is to yet to be drawn up.
The exploration license for the offshore Bejaïa-Annaba perimeter (Blocks 144-A and 145) was granted to Sonatrach in December 2011 by Agence Nationale pour la Valorisation des Ressources et Hydrocarbures (Alnaft). Prospecting activities are also expected in waters adjacent to the Willaya of Jijel, 350 km east of Algiers, and part of the Bejaïa-Annaba perimeter. The overall area of coastal strip to be opened for exploration is estimated at 5,000 km².
In December 2012, Algerian state energy giant Sonatrach awarded a contract to France’s CGG-Veritas to carry out the first seismic survey off Algeria’s shore. On Sunday, the first offshore drilling contract was awarded to CGC Veritas, Abdelhamid Zerguine said, adding that the French group would also carry out seismic studies.
Sonatrach also said earlier that it would undertake the offshore project alone if it could not find a suitable and experienced partner.
All producing oil and gas fields of Algeria are located onshore, in the south of the country. Algeria has also revealed its ambitions to tackle its unconventional resources, mainly shale gas.
Abdelghani Henni is the Middle East Editor for the Journal of Petroleum Technology.