Sonatrach to Use Fracking in Southern Algeria

Source: Algeria Times 2/9/2015, Location: Africa

The head of state-owned oil company Sonatrach said that gas exploration in southern Algeria would not be halted despite protests by residents against the use of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."

"We are not going to interrupt the drilling activities" underway at the Ain Salah field, Sonatrach chief Said Sahnoune said in a press conference.

The drilling work is at an advanced stage and the second pilot well will be completed in a matter of days in the town of Ahnet, located south of Ain Salah, Sahnoune said.

"We are at the point of finishing this project, it's a matter of a few days, when we will finish, the drilling apparatus will be transported to another exploration site that is already planned," Sahnoune said, without providing further details.

Residents of Tamanrasset region and Ain Salah have been protesting against production of shale gas since late December on the grounds that the extraction methods being used threaten the environment.

Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal expressed support recently for the gas exploration project, saying that the goal was to "learn about Algeria's non-conventional energy potential, in a country with high dependence on the petroleum business."

Fracking is a controversial method that involves pumping a pressurized fluid - usually composed of water, sand and chemicals - into a shale formation to create a fracture in the rock layer and release trapped petroleum or natural gas.

Anti-fracking groups contend that the technique pollutes aquifers and causes earthquakes in the areas where drilling takes place.

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