Algeria, located squarely in water –starved desert terrain, has become the first African country to officially sanction exploration and exploitation of Shale gas in its petroliferous basins.
Nine months after signing a cooperation agreement with ENI, the country is pleading with Anglo Dutch major Shell and US behemoth ExxonMobil to bring their technologies for the development of unconventional oil, with particular focus on shale gas. Negotiations with those two companies are ongoing.
Shale gas exploitation has run into opposition by environmental groups in the United States and –in particular South Africa-largely for its requirement of huge volumes of water. Vast amounts of water are needed to fracture underground formations and release natural gas. A single well on average, in America) uses 15 million litres of water, and thousands of wells have been drilled or permitted in the United States.
The sheer volume of water poses a problem in drought-stricken areas, but Algeria’s state hydrocarbon company Sonatrach says the country cannot forgo investment in its estimated 600 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale gas reserves, a figure it says it arrived at arrived at in a recent study.
Algeria plans to amend its hydrocarbons law before the end of 2012 to attract more foreign investment to help it develop potentially big reserves of non-conventional resources.