El Assel Project

Located in the East of the Algerian part of the Sahara, the El Assel contract area is 150 km southeastward of Hassi Messaoud, Algeria’s petroleum hub. The area includes three blocks (236b, 404a1, and 405b1) with an initial surface of 3,250 sq. km.

In December 2008, Gazprom International was awarded the El Assel contract through the first national and international E&P tender conducted by ALNAFT, the national agency for the valorization of hydrocarbon resources.

Originally, El Assel had been under a contract with Sonatrach. The tendering processes resulted in the company assigning a 49% interest to Gazprom International, which became the operator at the exploration stage.

In 2009, an addendum was signed enabling Gazprom International to join in a project on blocks 236b, 404a1, and 405b1 within the El Assel area. Effective until 2039, the Addendum came into force in May 2009 through ratification by a decree of the President of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria. At its exploration stage, the project was operated by Gazprom International (49%), involving Sonatrach (51%) as a partner and co-investor.

The operator was accountable to ALNAFT for fulfilling contractual conditions including the schedule, types, and scope of exploratory operations. The cooperation with Sonatrach was governed by a JOA. The two companies form an association within the project. Consisting of representatives from Sonatrach and Gazprom International, the operating committee is the supreme governance body. This body is authorized to adopt resolutions on both project strategies and tactics, as well as a range of practical matters within its remit.

Between 2009 and 2016, Gazprom International fully discharged its contractual obligations to the Algerian side throughout the three exploration phases. During this time, El Assel hosted 2D seismic of 200 linear km, 3D seismic of 3,098 square km, the drilling of 9 prospecting and appraisal wells with a total depth of 41,400 m. This resulted in the discovery and appraisal of two oil-and-gas fields and two gas-and-condensate fields whose reserves are certified by the Algerian side.

In 2010, following the tests of the first prospecting well, Rhourde Sayah-2, a potentially commercial discovery at Rhourde Sayah (RSH) was made. In 2011, Southern El Assel had an exploratory well, ZERP-1, drilled to estimate the reserves of the previously discovered field Zemlet Er Rekkeb. Later in 2012, the prospecting well ZERN-1 discovered a new gas-and-oil reservoir, Zemlet Er Rekkeb Nord. Zemlet Er Rekkeb and Zemlet Er Rekkeb Nord were considered non-commercial and the license blocks were relinquished to ALNAFT. In September 2014, the prospecting well RSHN-1 proved that there was another reservoir in the north of the area called Rhourde Sayah Nord (RSHN). In 2016, drilling and testing the last appraisal well, RSH-3, at El Assel and 3D seismic of 350 square km at Rhourde Sayah Nord were completed.

In 2021–2022, the Rhourde Sayah and Rhourde Sayah Nord field development plan was prepared and approved. The fields are being prepared for coming on stream.