For years Tunisia was considered a marginal oil producer, both by producers and consumers. Oil production in 1999 was a not particularly impressive 82,000 barrels per day, which was below the 1998 rate of 100,000 barrels per day.
But this rather modest picture is beginning to change. Experts believe that with proper professional treatment the country will be able to expand its recoverable oil reserves on a huge scale.
The Gulf of Gabes – where the richest oil deposits are located—area may contain as much as 1.5 billion barrels of recoverable oil.
In an attempt to strengthen its oil position, Tunisia and neighboring Libya recently initiated a joint venture to explore the “7th November” oilfield, which lies on both sides of the two North African countries’ border.
Additionally, Tunisia’s state owned ETAP launched a 2D seismic survey covering four open offshore blocks (E2-Nabeul, E3-Mahdia, E4-Kaboudia, E5-Sidi Mansour).
Another important area for exploration is the Ghadames Basin in the southern part of the country, near the Al-Borma oil field.
But the most impressive developments involve the natural gas sector, where the U.K.-based conglomerate, British Gas (BG), is planning massive investments.
Tunisia’s main gas field is at Miskar, which lies in the Gabes Gulf, about 125 km off the Tunisian coast.
The Miskar Field covers an area of 352 square kilometers, 62 meters water depth. BG has established a right to conduct exploration for hydrocarbons over a 12 year period.
BG had already invested $600 million in the development of that field, and plans to add another $450 million.
That investment will be spread over a period of nine years and is primarily to be spent in expanding the Miskar Field and developing the recently discovered Hasdrubal gas condensate, 25 km south of Miskaris.
These sums alone make British Gas the biggest—foreign or domestic–investor in Tunisia’s energy sector.
The funds will be spent on carrying out more exploration of the Miskar West Field and other areas within the 3,496 square kilometers zone for which BG holds two additional exploration permits.
BG asses that the Miskar field holds approximately 1 trillion cubic feet in gas reserves—enough to meet Tunisia’s gas needs for 10 years.
With the further development of the field, the company expects production to increase by about 100 billion cubic feet per year.
It is estimated that during his lifetime the field is expected to yield more then 700 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
BG is currently is contracted to produce 168 million cubic feet per day from Miskar. The new agreement will extend this to 230 million cubic feet per day on a long-term basis.
Hasdrubal involves a 260 billion cubic foot gas and 25 million billion barrels condensate discovery southwest of Miskar. BG has drilled four wells on it so far, and conducted made 3D seismic surveys.
The Hasdrubal Southwest prospect, (an extension of Hasdrubal) is thought to have roughly the same amount of reserves if not a bit more, and will require the sinking of appraisal wells to be sure.
The company currently is conducting 3D seismic surveys, and these yielded a new discovery—the Jughurta field, northwest of Miskar. However the reservoirs are fractured, and seismic imaging has not been conclusive.
Meanwhile BG has applied for an extension of its four-year permit on the Ulysse prospect, for which it still has not formulated a plan of action.
During the coming year, it intends drilling two wells in the area –one in Hasdrubal Southwest and the other most probably in Jughurta.
At present BG is not considering exporting Tunisian gas, since it local production capacity looks like it just might be able to keep up with the projected 5 percent growth in local demand, which is forecast for the coming few years.
BG is contractually obliged to supply a large proportion of the country’s gas needs till 2020.
BG processes its gas at its Hannibal plant, located 22 km south of Sifax and sells it to the Société Tunisienne de l’Electricité et du Gaz, the Tunisian state electricity and gas company. The company is looking at developing compressed natural gas as a vehicle fuel.
With a high profile company like BG involved, the prospects for Tunisia oil and gas sectors look set to improve.
But the country’s main problem remains a lack of funding for comprehensive exploration, which is exacerbated by its generally being overlooked by potential investor.
Investors tend to look the other way because there are at this stage only few active oil and gas fields, and most of those are offshore.
But, like its other North African neighbors, Libya and Algeria, Tunisia raises the prospect of significant finds in the future. – ( AlBawaba-MEBG)
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )