- After more than two decades of a declining oil production, Tunisia finally sees a quick growth in its hydrocarbon sector. With the recently connected offshore Oudna field now already producing half of its forecasted target, national oil production could soon be reaching the peak of the early 1980s.
The Swedish oil company Lundin Petroleum AB today announced that gross oil production from the Oudna field offshore Tunisia is now in excess of 20,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) of oil, "following the successful commissioning of water injection and artificial lift facilities."
The Oudna field was only put online on 11 November this year, thus with an initial production of 8,000 bbl/d. Proven and probable reserves of the Oudna field are 11.5 million barrels of oil, putting it on the top-five list of Tunisia's known oil reserves and making it the first producing field in the north-eastern Gulf of Hammamet (northeast of Sousse).
According to Ashley Heppenstall, President and CEO of Lundin Petroleum, production at Oudna is still to double before the end of the year. "The increased production from the Oudna field has ensured that we have achieved our forecast 2006 year end production of 40,000 bbl/d," commented Mr Heppenstall in a statement today.
The additional 40,000 daily barrels that the Oudna field contributes to in Tunisia's national oil output signifies an over 50 percent increase in the country's production. The latest figures available (2005) from the state-owned oil company Enterprises Tunisienne d'Activites Petrolieres (ETAP) put the national oil production at around 71,000 bbl/d.
According to ETAP, 73 percent of last year's total Tunisian oil production comes from six main concessions: El Borma, Ashtart, Oued Zar, Adam, Didon and Miskar. The remaining was produced from 26 other small concessions. ETAP statistics further indicate that the Oudna is now turning into Tunisia's highest producing oil field.
But this will not last for long, unless Lundin and its partners find larger reserves at the Oudna field. With about 11.5 million barrels of oil, Oudna will not be able to maintain a 40,000 bbl/d production for a long time.
Further, Tunisian authorities are optimistic about finding further large reserves in the Gulf of Hammamet. Higher world oil prices, improved technology and reforms easing foreign investments have caused a small boom in oil exploration in Tunisia - a country that most observers thought had already outlived its oil age.
Oil was only discovered in Tunisia in the early 1960s, as the relatively large El Borma field far in the desert south at the Algerian border caused widespread optimism in the North African country. El Borma so far however has proven to the country's by far largest oil reserve, and since the mid-1980s, production has been going rapidly downwards here.
Despite the early optimism, most experts now hold that Tunisia has only modest oil reserves compared to its neighbours. Proven reserves have been steadily at around 310 million barrels during the last decade, while proven gas reserves are growing fast. While few experts foresee a major oil and gas boom in Tunisia, the national economy nevertheless has developed well compared to most regional neighbours - without depending too much on hydrocarbons.
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