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Algeria's major Touat natural gas field complex to start in Feb 2019: Sonatrach

Highlights

Project beset by operational delays, disputes

Touat expected to produce 4.5 Bcm/year

Algeria hoping to expand European exports

London — First natural gas from the much-delayed Touat field complex in Algeria is now expected in February next year, an upstream official at state-owned Sonatrach said Thursday.

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Touat, one of several new gas projects Algeria is bringing online to offset falling output at its older fields, has been beset by operational delays and missed deadlines.

Asked about the various announcements and postponements of the project start-up, the official said the latest target would be "the right one" after consultation with contractor Tecnicas Reunidas.

Touat was originally scheduled to start production in April 2018, but the project suffered delays to the construction of the central production facility (CPF).

Sonatrach, which co-operates Touat with UK-based Neptune Energy, said the delays were caused by a conflict between the building contractor and its workers.

Neptune, which took over as co-operator of the project from France's Engie as part of its deal to buy the French company's upstream assets, said in September that the project was 90% complete and that all phase one wells had been drilled despite the issues with the CPF and associated pipeline infrastructure.

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Touat is located in the Basin of Sbaa, 1,500 km southwest of Algiers near the city of Adrar.

It is expected to produce at a rate of around 12.5 million cu m/d -- or 4.5 Bcm/year -- of gas and some 1,700 b/d of condensate.

Sonatrach in September said it wanted to boost its gas exports to Spain through the expansion of the 8 Bcm/year Medgaz pipeline while also maintaining supplies through the GME link via Morocco.

Algeria sends gas via the two pipelines to Spain -- with volumes totaling 14.5 Bcm in 2017 -- but Sonatrach wants to be able to increase exports as it brings online a number of new major gas production projects in the coming years.

--Stuart Elliott, stuart.elliott@spglobal.com

--Illies Sahar, newsdesk@spglobal.com

--Edited by Jonathan Loades-Carter, newsdesk@spglobal.com