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Algeria Sees Strong Initial Interest in Energy Round

Source: Algeria Times 5/13/2014, Location: Africa

More than 50 firms joined in the early stages of Algeria's new energy round when it hopes new oil law incentives and the potential of fields on offer will draw strong bids, a top energy official said.

Africa's largest gas producer and supplier of a fifth of Europe's gas needs, is looking for foreign oil explorers to sign up to help offset stagnating crude and gas output after a disappointing round in 2011.

Increasing output is vital for a government that relies heavily on energy exports for state income and to pay for social programmes, and food and fuel subsidies that have helped keep it stable amid turbulent times for its neighbours.

Ali Betata, president of Algeria's national hydrocarbons agency ALNAFT, told Reuters interest in the potential fields was clear during the dataroom meetings for initial due diligence process that closes later this month.

"Since we opened the data room sessions, the number of companies seeking different perimeters has not stopped increasing," he told Reuters in an email response to questions. "From that rhythm of participation of the companies, we can conclude there is certainly interest."

Algeria's last energy auction round in 2011 awarded only two contracts out of the 10 offers - one to Spain's Cepsa and the other to its own state energy firm Sonatrach.

It was a disappointing result for a North African country that gets most of its energy output from mature fields and needs foreign investment to develop new reserves.

The government has since pushed through a new hydrocarbons law in 2013 it hopes will make the difference, offering tax and contractual incentives, and benefits for unconventional energy investments.

For the 2014 round, 31 fields are on offer, with some of the gas perimeters from Algeria's shale reserves, which are among the world's largest and largely unexplored.

Algeria has also said it had made some "promising" discoveries among the more than 30 finds last year.

Asked about Algeria's output, Betata said for 2013 total production would be 192 million tonnes of oil equivalent (TOE), including 121 million TOE of natural gas, 54.5 million TOE of crude oil, and 9.5 million TOE of condensate.

"In terms of production forecast for 2014 and 2015, and considering the start of new deposits, we will record an increase in overall production that may go beyond 200 million TOE," he said. "This upward trend will continue beyond 2015."

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