Sonatrach is also considering a separate study to assess the risks posed by current pipeline routes to existing population centres.

The terminal risk assessment is being carried out by a team of France’s Ineris and state energy company Sonatrach. It is due for completion in May.

Algeria uses seven coastal hydrocarbons export terminals. The main ones are at Arzew, Skikda, Algiers, Oran and Bejaia.

About 40 per cent of the country’s hydrocarbons exports, including all exports of natural gas liquids, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and condensate, are handled by the Arzew terminal in the northwest.

It will also handle exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) once the Galsi pipeline to Italy comes on stream. The 8 billion-cubic-metre-a-year (bcm) pipeline is set for completion in 2011.

LNG will also be exported from the Skikda terminal following completion of the 8-bcm Medgaz pipeline to Spain, expected in 2009.

A separate study is being discussed to address the potential encroachment onto the country’s pipeline network of major new infrastructure projects such as the East-West motorway.

The 1,216-kilometre highway, designed to join Algeria’s borders with Morocco in the west and Tunisia in the east from 2009, will cross a number of major pipelines.

“We hope to set up working committees with representation from a number of government ministries to address the problem of encroachment,” says Abdelkader Oulhadj.

“We are trying to speak to local authorities and work together to ensure there is no encroachment of the local population onto pipeline routes. If there is, we might have to change pipeline routes, or change the grade or thickness of the pipes.”

The studies are part of the country’s drive to ensure that its oil and gas infrastructure complies with new regulations introduced under the 2005 hydrocarbons law.

Although the regulations are still to be implemented, the new clauses are designed to bring safety and security up to international standards.

The programme also includes the inspection and rehabilitation of Algeria’s ageing pipeline infrastructure. The first five-year phase will involve the inspection of 6,000 kilometres of oil, gas and LPG pipelines (MEED 11:01:08).