Algeria’s largest new gas development, the Touat field, is due to come on stream by 2016, according to Didier Holleaux, the president of GDF-Suez, the international partner on the project.

With expected production of 4.5bn cubic metres a year (bcm/y), the field will have the highest output of several tight gas prospects under development in the southwest of the country.

Construction work on the main gas treatment station for the estimated $2bn field development is due to begin in 2014. The scope of work also includes the construction of gas gathering facilities.

Seven wells have been drilled on the 3,000 square metre concession to date, said Holleaux, speaking at an energy conference in Algiers in early November. A total of 41 wells will be drilled, 24 of them before production begins in 2016.

Algeria’s last three upstream bid rounds have excited little interest among international companies, leaving Algeria reliant in the medium term on the development of the country’s southwest gas territories.

Gas production fell from 88.2bcm in 2005 to 80.4 bcm in 2010, according to BP, while gas exports fell from 63 bcm in 2008 to 55.8bcm in 2010. Gas demand is set to increase from 26.6bcm in 2008 to 54bcm by 2018, according to the Commission de Regulation de l’Electricite & du Gaz, the state-run energy regulator.

Three other major field development projects are under way in the southwest. The Ahnet field has project capacity of 4bcm/y; the Timmimoun field 1.6bcm/y; and the Reggane North field 3bcm/y.

The government is currently drawing up amendments to the country’s 2005 hydrocarbons law in an effort to attract investment into gas prospects that are remote, difficult to access or require special technology.

GDF-Suez has a 65 per cent interest in the Touat field, with the balance held by state energy company Sonatrach. The field has estimated reserves of 69bn cubic metres (bcm).