JNOC, with its Japanese partner Inpex Corporation, held a 25 per cent stake in the block and has invested Y 2,500 million ($21 million). The US’ ExxonMobilCorporationhad a 75 per cent stake in the acreage and was also the operator. The partners decided to relinquish ownership of the permit after the results from two appraisal wells that were drilled last year showed the blocks to be insufficient for commercial production. The partners have not announced the extent of the reserves discovered.

Mobil signed a production-sharing agreement with Sonatrach for the 12,700-square-kilometre Touggourt acreage in 1992 and the first test well, drilled in 1995, yielded a flow of 1,000 barrels a day. In 1998, Mobil announced that it was withdrawing from the tract because of low oil prices. However, the company retained its interest and merged with Exxon (MEED 11:12:98). The relinquishment of the Touggourt permit leaves ExxonMobil with no interests in Algeria. However, an official at the company’s offices in Houston says the withdrawal ‘does not preclude ExxonMobil going back in at a later date’.

JNOC is a member of the Japanese consortium which has a 30 per cent stake in the Ohanet Development – a project aimed at bringing into production four gas condensate reservoirs in the Illizi province, approximately 1,300 kilometres southeast of Algiers. Australia’s BHP Billiton is the operator in partnership with Sonatrach. Total investment in the project is estimated to be around $1,030 million. At the end of March, JNOC had invested some $1.6 million, but a company spokesman says he expects the figure to rise to $44 million by 2002, when 11 appraisal wells will have been drilled (MEED 14:7:00).