Energy Minister Youcef Yousfi said Thursday that Algeria is in the phase of assessing its shale gas reserves, which will be spread over four year duration.
"Currently, we are assessing the extraction techniques and studying the commercial viability of the Ahnet basin," Yousfi told the People’s National Assembly (APN)’s Committee on Economic Affairs, Development, Industry, Trade and Planning.
In this regard, the minister said that Sonatrach has drilled the two pilot wells of Ahnet (In Salah), only after been authorized by the National Agency of the Promotion of Hydrocarbon Resources (Alnaft).
Those wells have been also drilled in line with the rules on the non-conventional hydrocarbons exploitation, planned by the new law on hydrocarbons, the minister noted.
As such, the minister said "nothing to hide" about these experimental drillings that caused a wave of popular protests in some southern cities.
However, he indicated that Sonatrach produces unconventional gas in the Ahnet basin for almost three years. This "experimental production" began in 2012 with a volume of 40,000 m3/day rose to 200,000 m3 per day in 2014, and will shortly double to 400,000 m3/ day.
Sonatrach will maintain this production which served to supply a power plant in In Salah, for four years, the minister said.
Yousfi also explained the various precautionary measures taken by Sonatrach during shale drilling to protect groundwater, stressing that most of Algeria’s oil reserves are located schistose rocks and whose extraction requires the use of hydraulic fracturing.
He noted that Sonatrach even needs this technique to optimize the extraction in the conventional fields such as Hassi Messaoud, the country’s largest oil field, in production since 1956.
According to the minister, 75% of reserves in Hassi Messaoud are located in impermeable shale rocks.