Gaz de France, Sonatrach, Petronas to explore Algerian basin

Gaz de France SA has contracted with Algeria's Sonatrach and Malaysia's Petronas to explore for 3 years a 17,000 sq km area in the Ahnet basin, south of In Salah in Algeria's Saharan desert. GdF anticipates the exploration phase will cost 25 million-41 million euros.


PARIS�Gaz de France SA has contracted with Algeria's Sonatrach and Malaysia's Petronas to explore for 3 years a 17,000 sq km area in the Ahnet basin south of In Salah in Algeria's Saharan desert.

GdF anticipates the exploration phase will cost 25 million-41 million euros. If sufficient reserves are found to bring a field on stream, total costs could be 2.1 billion euros. The partners postulate reserves could be 140 billion cu m.

If development is viable, production could begin in 2008. GdF and Petronas will pay an entry fee to participate in the development phase. The amount has not been negotiated.

Petronas will operate the exploration stage with a 45% share of the investment, Sonatrach will have a 30% share, and GdF will have 25%.

The PSC falls within the cooperation agreement signed between GdF and Sonatrach June 8 to bolster their already close commercial collaboration and widen it to the development of gas reserves and the sale of volumes of natural gas.

The Algerian venture is GdF's first in the Mediterranean basin and brings it near its target of producing by 2003 from its own reserves at least 15% of its clients' needs. Currently GdF's annual gas production is 2.5 billion cu m, about 4% of its needs.

French Energy Sec. Christian Pierret told a press conference recently that he was hopeful of bringing the current leftwing political majority in France around to his belief that Gaz de France could not pursue its global expansion policy without partial privatization.

"It is not so much a financial question," he said, "but one of forming industrial partnerships."

To this end he was advocating turning Gaz de France into a limited company (soci� anonyme) in which the state would retain a majority stake and the personnel civil servant status.

The minority share could be taken over by TotalFinaElf SA, Electricit�e France, and a foreign oil company such as Statoil, for instance, he said.

Pierret hopes to persuade Parliament to adopt this new status when the EU gas deregulation directive comes up for discussion in March or April.

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