A spokesman for the state-run firm confirms it has declared ‘force majeure’ on its shipments to Europe, a clause in its contracts which frees a company from liability due to circumstances beyond its control.

The company says it expects normal output to resume in January. Before the cut in supplies, production at the complex was about 19 million tonnes a year.

Earlier in 2008, Sonatrach selected the Italian/Japanese consortium of Snamprogetti and Chiyoda Corporation for the $4.5bn contract to build a new LNG plant at Arzew.

The group will build an LNG facility over a period of 48 months, with capacity of 4.7 million tonnes a year (t/y) (MEED 27:7:08).