Tunis/Tunisia — The total number of research and exploration permits dropped from 56 in 2010 to 23 by the end of 2020, said Acting Minister of Industry, Energy and Mines Mohamed Boussaid on Thursday during a hearing session held by the Industry, Energy, Natural Resources and Infrastructure Committee at the House of People's Representatives (French: ARP) to examine draft laws on the approval of special agreements and their annexes relating to the extension of the exploitation of the hydrocarbon concessions of Gremda, Maamoura and Jebal Doulab.
The minister also mentioned the regression of the national production of hydrocarbons, from 7 million tonnes of oil equivalent (toe) in 2010 to 3.5 million toe, a drop of about 50%.
According to him, this fall is mainly due to the natural decline of production fields, and the lack of renewal of the national stock through the discovery of new fields, as well as the reluctance of companies to invest, due to social protests.
"The decline in hydrocarbon exploration and production indicators were directly reflected in the energy independence index, which fell from 93% in 2010 to 43% in 2020," he added.
He stressed the need to combine all efforts to find a solution to urgent issues, in coordination with the ministry's services, such as the Zarat research permit, for which a final version of the annex has been developed in a participatory approach with the members of the committee.
The minister also proposed to allow the three concessions, whose exploitation permit expired, to continue their production, recalling that they are part of 18 concessions whose validity period is coming to an end.
The Jebal Doulab concession, which is located in the governorate of Kasserine, expired in December 2018. It currently produces around 200 barrels per day and contributes 0.8% to national oil production.
The concessionaires submitted an official request for a new exploitation concession, which was accepted by the Hydrocarbons Advisory Committee (for a period of 16 years until 2035).
Concerning the Gremda concession located in Sfax, 51% of it belongs to the Tunisian Company of Petroleum Activities (ETAP) and the rest to the Norwegian company TPS, it began operating in 1992 for 30 years. Its production has reached 10.3 million barrels until September 2020, and its reserves are estimated at 1 million barrels, but the concession, which will be extended by 15 years, is awaiting the agreement of the ARP.
The Maamoura concession, which is located in the governorate of Nabeul, dates back to 1990. It is 51% owned by ETAP and 49% by the Italian company ENI. The remaining gas and oil reserves of this field are estimated at 13.9 million barrels of oil and 1577 million m3 of gas. Its gas production, estimated at 17 thousand square metres per day, contributes 0.5% of the national production. The concession will be extended by 20 years until 2040.