In June the UK's BG celebrated the 10th anniversary of the first molecule of gas supplied to the national energy grid by its local subsidiary BG Tunisia. The country's largest foreign investor, BG supplies 50 per cent of Tunisia's gas needs and plays a crucial role in the energy strategy of a country striving for self-sufficiency in the face of escalating global oil prices. Since its arrival in the country in 1988, BG has invested about $1,000 million, largely on the development of the Miskar field in its offshore Amilcar permit in the Gulf of Gabes, from which the company produced about 12,300 million barrels of oil equivalent of gas and condensate in 2004.
Plans are now on the table for the development of the company's Hasdrubal field, also in the Amilcar permit, where a major gas and condensate discovery was made earlier this year. Work on the field will begin following negotiations with the Energy Ministry and state oil and gas company Enterprise Tunisienne d'Activites Petrolieres (ETAP), which BG hopes will be concluded by the end of the year. Early indications are that Hasdrubal would increase BG Tunisia's gas production by about 50 per cent. 'We are very positive about this country and about doing business here, and we want to do more,' says Derek Fisher, chief executive officer (CEO) of BG Tunisia. 'Tunisia is an important component of our global portfolio. We have made a significant investment to date, and ideally we would like to spend another $1,000 million in the next five-to-six years. We serve a great strategic need in Tunisia, and our experience here has been fantastic. The country has all the characteristics we look for in a market: political stability; security of contracts and strong relationships with our partner, ETAP, the customer STEG [state energy company Societe Tunisienne de l'Electricite et du Gaz] and the local supplier; transparency of rules and laws; and a top-notch, talented and loyal workforce.' Strategy BG is currently pursuing a two-pronged strategy centred on sustaining production from the Miskar field and developing its Hasdrubal assets. 'We are spending about $400 million on our existing infrastructure, about half of which we will invest up to 2007,' says Fisher. A new $160 million compressor unit at the Miskar production facility, which was commissioned in May, is set to extend field plateau production up to 2014. And mobilisation is under way by a local company on a 60-kilometre condensate pipeline to join the Trapsa terminal at Skhira on the east coast to the Miskar facility, with engineering and construction work to be completed in early 2006 and operations expected to start in the middle of the year. An exploration programme is in place for both the Miskar field and BG's second permit, Ulysse. 'In 2004 we shot 900 square kilometres of 3D seismic over the two permits, and in 2006 we hope to add a significant amount of further 3D seismic to give us a full picture of our holdings in the Gulf of Gabes,' says Fisher. 'In 2006 we will drill two exploration wells in the Amilcar permit and two more will be drilled in the Ulysse permit in 2007. We are finalising the design approach for the new wells.' A third well will be drilled on the Miskar permit in 2007, with three more planned for 2010. The company's main focus at the moment is on the signing and subsequent development of the Hasdrubal field. 'Strategically this would create a second gas hub in the Gulf of Gabes, which is very good news for Tunisia, and is an interesting opportunity for us,' says Fisher. 'Hasdrubal would be a significant new investment. It is a major new source of gas, a major new source of condensate and it also has some oil. The Hasdrubal infrastructure would include a new LPG [liquefied petroleum gas] production facility, which would meet a significant proportion - probably more than 20 per cent - of the country's domestic LPG needs.