Before shale gas the In Salah gas joint venture was already one of the largest dry gas joint-venture projects in the country.
The first phase of development by BP started in July 2004, developing the largest three fields. The second stage, the In Salah Southern Fields project, came on line in February 2016, to maintain plateau production by developing the remaining four field (1).
Sonatrach’s first two vertical shale exploratory wells drilled in 2012 confirmed the potential for shale gas. Since 2014, Sonatrach has been engaged in a pilot project in the shale gas rich Ahnet basin to drill, hydraulically fracture, and analyse three horizontal wells with up to 14 hydraulic fracturing stages.
Already in December 2009, Total won a tender to acquire a 49% interest in the ‘Ahnet exploration and exploitation license’, with the greater part going to the Algerian company Sonatrach. Total expected drilling to begin in 2015, for an estimated 700 million barrels of oil (3).
A new hydrocarbons law enacted in 2013 made it legal to exploit shale gas in Algeria. Thus, the country commenced its shale programme in 2013 in Ain Salah, following an accord with French President Francois Hollande in December 2012. The accord gave France and its companies to explore shale gas in the country.
In December 2013, Algeria’s National Oil Corporation announced its intentions to bolster the economy by allowing overseas corporations to commence fracking operations.
As a desert oasis, Ain Salah relies on a sensitive aquifer system stretching from Southern Algeria to Tunisia and Libya, and overlapping with at least four intensive shale gas fields (2). Evidence was released exposing harmful pollution and contaminated water supplies, causing an uproar.. The threat of groundwater pollution from fracking is the greatest concern for local inhabitants, whose main source of income is derived from agriculture.
Drilling of the first pilot shale wells in Ain Salah began in December 2014. From the start of 2015, huge protests erupted, some sustained for more than five months, despite facing repressive (inc. pre-emptive arrests) and co-opting measures from the Algerian government. There were violent confrontations between police and up to 40,000 protestors (3).
In January 2015, as the protests spread to Algiers, Total announced it would no longer be partaking in the Ahnet concession.
On February 3rd 2015, local residents visited the drilling site and posted photos and videos on social media revealing the absence of facilities to treat water and drilling mud, contrary to official statements. They revealed the presence of chemicals such as Ezeflo110, sitting on pallets, rather than being stored securely, thereby proving Sonatrach’s inability to handle waste management and storage of lethal chemicals (4).
Protesters demanded the halt of all operations of exploration for shale gas. An official request for a moratorium on shale gas was sent to President Bouteflika on February 21st 2015, co-signed by Algerian experts, asking for a national debate around the issue. In January 2016, the government announced it would halt exploitation due to very low oil prices (4).
|Name of conflict:||Anti-fracking uprising in Ain Salah, Algeria|
|State or province:||Tamanrasset Province, Algeria|
|Location of conflict:||Ain Salah (or In Salah) - Ahnet concession|
|Accuracy of location||HIGH (Local level)|
|Type of conflict. 1st level:||Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy|
|Type of conflict. 2nd level:||Shale gas fracking|
Oil and gas refining
|Specific commodities:||Crude oil|
Algeria, ranks third or fourth in the world in recoverable shale gas reserves, with more than 700tn cubic feet spread across six basins.
Already in December 2009, Total won a tender to acquire a 49% interest in the ‘Ahnet exploration and exploitation license’, with the greater part going to the Algerian company Sonatrach. Total expected drilling to begin in 2015, for an estimated 700 million barrels of oil.
In Late January 2015, as the protests spread to Algiers, Total announced it would no longer be partaking in the Ahnet concession.
Peak output is expected to be approx. 200 Bcf/y in Ain Salah (BP/Sonatrach).
|Level of Investment for the conflictive project||70,000,000,000|
|Type of population||Semi-urban|
|Affected Population:||Desert populations relying on aquifer for livelihood|
|Start of the conflict:||01/01/2015|
|End of the conflict:||01/01/2016|
|Company names or state enterprises:||Sonatrach from Algeria|
Total Nature Based Solutions from France - In January 2015, as the protests spread to Algiers, Total announced it would no longer be partaking in the Ahnet concession.
Halliburton from United States of America
Algeria’s National Oil Corporation from Algeria
British Petroleum (BP) from United Kingdom
|Intensity||HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)|
|Reaction stage||In REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)|
|Groups mobilizing:||Local government/political parties|
Unemployed groups, local teachers, scholars, experts
Unemployed groups, local teachers, scholars, experts
Local groups, teachers, scholars, experts
|Forms of mobilization:||Creation of alternative reports/knowledge|
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
|Environmental Impacts||Potential: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Soil contamination, Waste overflow|
|Health Impacts||Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Infectious diseases|
|Socio-economical Impacts||Visible: Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Increase in violence and crime|
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
|Conflict outcome / response:||Repression|
Strengthening of participation
Project temporarily suspended
|Proposal and development of alternatives:||The economic issue stands side-by-side with the environmental one, as civil society searches for better ways of living sustainably outside of the control of corrupt foreign multinationals and a distant government.|
|Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:||Not Sure|
|Briefly explain:||The decision to halt exploitation was publicly announced as coming as a result of low prices, rather than conceding victory to protesters.|
It is important to also bear in mind that exploitation has been halted, not altogether folded. Thus, many in Ain Salah remain vigilant.
|Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)|
|References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries|
Algerian demonstrators stage a sit-in on March 5 at Soumoud Square [Getty Images]
Protests against fracking in Ain Salah (photo: Billal Bensalem/ABACAPRESS.COM)
Women of Ain Salah leading the protest on Tuesday 24 February 2015. Credit: BBOY LEE Photos.