El Assel Project

Located in the East of the Algerian part of the Sahara, the El Assel license 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 EP International was awarded the El Assel contract through the first national and international E&P tender conducted by ALNAFT, the national agency for the development of hydrocarbon resources.

Originally, El Assel had been under a contract with Sonatrach, the national state-owned oil and gas company of Algeria. The tendering processes resulted in Sonatrach assigning a 49% interest to Gazprom EP International, while the latter was awarded operatorship at the exploration stage. Apart from that, the contract area grew to include the previously discovered oilfield, Zemle Er-Rekkeb.

The operator is accountable to ALNAFT for fulfilling contractual conditions including the schedule, types, and scope of exploratory works. The cooperation with Sonatrach is governed by a JOA. The two companies are an association within the project. Consisting of representatives from Sonatrach and Gazprom EP 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.

2009 saw the signing of an addendum enabling Gazprom EP International to join in a project on blocks 236b, 404a1, and 405ba 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 EP International (49%), involving Sonatrach (51%) as a partner and co-investor.

Between 2009 and 2016, Gazprom EP International fully discharged its contractual obligations to the Algerian side throughout the three exploration phases. During the said period, El Assel saw 2D seismic of 200 LKM, 3D seismic of 3,098 sq. m, and nine exploratory and appraisal wells with a total of 41,400 m drilled. These activities resulted in the discovery of four gas-and-oil fields with explored reserves to be certified by the Algerian side when switching to development.

2010 witnessed a potentially commercial discovery at Rhourde Sayah after the first prospecting well, Rhourde Sayah 2, was tested. In 2011, Southern El Assel had an exploratory well, ZERP 1, drilled to estimate the reserves of the previously discovered oilfield, Zemle Er-Rekkeb. Later in 2012, the ZERN 1 prospecting well discovered Zemle Er-Rekkeb North, a new gas-and-oil reservoir; in September 2014, the RSHN 1 prospecting well confirmed another reservoir, Rhourde Sayah North.

2016 saw the end of drilling and testing the last appraisal well, RSH 3, at El Assel; the conclusion of 3D seismic of 350 sq. m at Rhourde Sayah North; and the completion of field evaluation reports and development plans.

As a way forward, Gazprom EP International and Sonatrach will discuss and approve FDPs for the newly discovered Zemle Er-Rekkeb, Zemle Er-Rekkeb North, Rhourde Sayah and Rhourde Sayah North.