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Resistance to fracking projects, Algeria

Fossil-fuel reliant Algeria has announced that it intends to tap into its shale gas reserves, which stand as the third largest in the world, which would then supply the European gas market.


Fossil-fuel reliant Algeria has announced that it intends to tap into its shale gas reserves, which stand as the third largest in the world, which would then supply the European gas market. To this end, Algerias hydrocarbons company, Sonatrach, has entered into agreements with a number of multi-nationals, including Shell, ENI and Talisman. A hydrocarbons law amended in 2012 has made it easier for foreign companies to invest in the shale gas sector, allowing for tax breaks and variable royalty taxes. The first wells were drilled in 2011 in the Ahnet basin near Tamanrasset. Shale gas mining (otherwise known as fracking) has been controversial because of the large amounts of water it uses and the potential for toxic chemicals used in the process to leak into and pollute groundwater and aquifer reserves. Algerian environmentalists are concerned that water sources in an already water-scarce country will be further strained through the use of large amounts of water in the process and potential pollution. Injecting 15,000 cubic metres (530,000 cubic feet) per well, with a well every 100 metres (yards), is catastrophic for a country with such water scarcity, said Chems Eddine Chitour, director of fossil energy development at Algiers Ecole Polytechnique, as quoted in one newspaper report. The Algerian Solidarity Campaign has urged decision-makers to take into consideration citizens basic rights to water, noting that while water shortages remain a major grievance, the drilling method requires 15 to 20 million litres of water for each fracturing, equivalent to the average daily consumption of 40,000 people city. Fracking has been banned in some countries in the European Union such as France and Bulgaria, and there are concerns about European energy companies operating in developing countries. Experience shows that risks can significantly increase in countries where the capacity for implementing and enforcing environmental and health protection is generally lower. It is likely, based on the experience of industry behaviour in other fuel related activities, that it will contribute to further environmental degradation, corruption, human rights violation, or social conflicts and that it is unlikely to contribute to poverty reduction, said a Friends of the Earth Europe report. On March 9th, 2013, the Algerian authorities passed amendments to the Hydrocarbon Law, which opened the way to the exploitation of shale gas in Algeria. This law was approved in a climate of total opacity and groups have mobilized in response, networking with anti-fracking groups in London and local activist networks built at the recent World Social Forum in Tunisia. The President of Algeria Solidarity Campaign, Hamza Hamouchene, signed a collective solidarity statement alongside more than 80 organizations across the world.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Resistance to fracking projects, Algeria
State or province:Tamanrasset Province and others
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Shale gas fracking
Specific commodities:Natural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Algeria holds 231 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale gas, the International Energy Agency estimated, enough to supply the entire European Union for a decade and valued at about $2.6 trillion at current prices. Shale gas could almost double Algerias marketed gas production during the next two decades to 160 billion cubic meters a year, and the country could export 110 billion cubic meters by 2030, according to Bloomberg. Algeria needs to drill more than 400 test wells over the next several years to determine whether shale gas will be economically viable.

Level of Investment for the conflictive project80,000,000,000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:01/01/2011
Company names or state enterprises:Sonatrach from Algeria
Eni group from Italy
Total SA from France
ExxonMobil Corporation (Exxon) from United States of America
Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi (Eni) from Italy
Talisman Energy from Canada
Algerian Association of the Gas Industry from Algeria
Relevant government actors:Algerian Ministry of Energy and Mines
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Friends of the Earth Europe, Algeria Solidarity Campaign, Platform London, UK, Algeria Solidarity Campaign, Algerian Culture Collective, Frack Off, Parti de Gauche, Ribble Estuary Against Fracking, Comité Nationale de Defense les Droits de Chomeurs (CNDDC), Algeria, L’Observatoire Algérien des Droits de l’Homme (OADH), Algeria Anti-Shale Gas Euro-Maghreban Collective (CEMAGAS), Algeria Agir pour le changement et la démocratie en Algérie, Collectif National Pour Les Libertes Citoyennes (CNLC)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Street protest/marches
Demos held in London
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Deaths
Other Health impactsViolent repression of anti-fracking protests, at least one death recorded
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Negotiated alternative solution
New legislation
Violent targeting of activists
Project temporarily suspended
Proposal and development of alternatives:In referring to the mining of shale gas reserves generally, Friends of the Earth Europe has called on the EU, its member states and European financial institutions to cease providing financial or political support to shale gas development projects. Any financial and political assistance provided to shale gas projects in countries in the Global South should be redirected towards the production and promotion of renewable energy sources and energy saving, in line with the Millennium Development Goals, the organisation says. Meanwhile the Algerian Solidarity Campaign wants the government to diversify the economy. Algeria should decrease its natural resources dependency and urgently pursue revitalisation and development of other economic sectors, green energy and renewables included, ASC says.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:It is too early to tell, but if Algeria decided to go ahead with large scale mining of shale gas and there was a market demand, it seems unlikely that they would desist, given the countys high reliance on fossil fuels for its economy.
The government did recently announce a moratorium on all fracking activities until 2022 with a possible cancellation of planned projects, however some activists believe these promises are hollow and anti-fracking demonstrations have continued.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Hydrocarbon Law (05-07 of 2005)

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Maplecroft (2013). Map of Algerias shale gas potential. Accessed 7 February 2013
[click to view]

Draft Synthesis Report. Accessed 8 February 2013
[click to view]

Reuters (2012). Algerias Sonatrach in talks with Shell, ExxonMobil on shale gas. Accessed 7 February 2013.
[click to view]

Food and Agriculture Organisation (2009). Groundwater Management in Algeria

AFP (2012). Algeria to exploit controversial shale gas. Accessed 7 February 2013
[click to view]

Friends of the Earth Europe (2012). Shale gas: Unconventional and unwanted: the case against shale gas. Accessed 8 February 2013.
[click to view]

Bauerova, Ladka and Patel, Tara (2012). Europes Shale Boom Lies in Sahara as Algeria Woos Exxon. Accessed 7 February 2013
[click to view]

Algeria Solidarity Campaign (2013). Algeria plunges further into oil and gas dependency.

Algeria Solidarity Campaign (2013). Algeria plunges further into oil and gas dependency. 
[click to view]

'Gaz de schiste – c'est fasciste!' – Don't Frack Algeria
[click to view]

"Algeria’s fracking deepens divide between population and govt." France 24 International News.
[click to view]

VICE News: Protests Against Fracking in the Sahara Desert Are Spreading in Algeria.
[click to view]

The Economic Voice: Protests sweep Algeria targeting fracking by Algerian regime and multinationals
[click to view]

Middle East Eye: Algeria shelves shale gas plans until 2022 amid fierce protests
[click to view]

Platform London:Shale Gas Exploitation in Algeria: Interview with an Algerian Journalist and Anti-Fracking Campaigner
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Youtube (2012). I do not believe in shale gas from Algeria, because it is absurd.
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Antoine Simon, Friends of the Earth France and Lena Weber
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1740
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