Algerian state energy giant Sonatrach discovered five new gas reservoirs in December, bringing the total number of oil and gas finds in the country up to 16 in 2009.

The new deposits were discovered in the Berkine, Illizi, and Hassi Messaoud basins in the east, southeast and centre of the country and produced a total of 27,294 cubic metres an hour of gas under testing, according to Sonatrach statement on 30 December.

The discoveries bring the number of oil and gas discoveries to 16 for 2009. Nine of these were made by Sonatrach independently while the remaining seven were found by the state energy giant in association with international oil companies.

Algeria is the world’s sixth largest producer of gas, and produced 86.5 billion cubic metres a day of natural gas, according to the UK’s BP. Oil and gas exports are crucial to the country’s economy, and made up 97 per cent of export revenues in 2008, while accounting for more than 50 per cent of gross domestic product that year.

Although Algiers wants to reduce dependence on revenues raised through hydrocarbons exports, it also wants to cement its position as a major global gas producer, and is in the process of developing a number of pipeline projects to link the North African state with Europe.