Turning point: Tunisia country profileby Patrick Osgood on Aug 16, 2012
Unlike neighbours Algeria and Libya, Tunisia has minor oil and gas resources. The country has 400 million barrels of reserves. Its production falls 10,000 barrels a day short of local demand. A revolutionary 2011 saw Tunisia’s oil output fall 9%.
Oil and gas firms report that the political situation in Tunisia continues to be unsettled, with semi-regular but peaceful demonstrations of civil and labor unrest (Eni, Petrofac and BG Group have seen sit-ins) along with a high turnover of officials.
Despite this, Tunisia is attractive for E&P, as it offers an attractive investment climate. The new government, elected after the fall of Ben Ali, is heeding the need to reduce the burden of energy costs and the need for imported refined products. Industry Minister Khalid Qadour said earlier this year that Tunisia is set for 24 new oil exploration sites in 2012 and $1.7bn of upstream investment.
A $2 bn 120,000 bpd refinery financed by Qatar is slated to wean Tunisia off imported petroleum products. A diverse mix of independent explorers operate in the country (commonly in partnership with state oil firm ETAP), and crude supply is also set to increase.
51 years on from Eni’s first contract for the Saharan El Bourma field, the Italian oil giant continues to produce oil under a new contract signed in 2008, with 3D seismic shot in 2010.
The Borj el Khadra (25%) field is also in production. The Adam and Djebel Grouz Consessions (Eni’s share 50%) is in development as part of a $600m investment drive. Eni produces c. 18,000 bpd of Tunisian oil.
Dubai’s Dragon Oil splashed down in November with a farm-in for 55% of the Bargou Exploration Permit in partnership with Cooper Energy and Jacka Resources. A rig has been procured for further exploration.
In June, Ireland’s Circle Oil received a six-month extension of its permit to explore for oil in the Grombalia region.
ADX Energy operate the Chorbane and Kerkouane Exploration Assets, with Gulfsands a non-operating partner. In November Gulfsands declared that the Sid Dhaher find at Kerkouane contains 51 million barrels. Candax Energy, a Canadian independent, shored up interests in May at the El Bibane and Robbana concessions in the South.
The largest player in Tunisian natural gas is BG Group, which provides the country with around 60% of power feedstock under a deal struck with state utility STEG to supply up to 200 mmscfd from Miskar. Petrofac has also teamed up with ETAP, producing an average 750,000 cu m of gas from the Chergui facility, representing just under 10% of Tunisia’s production.