171 805 km2 ,i.e.; over 66% of the area of Tunisia including offshore are covered by 62 research and oil exploration permits, according to figures released by “Conjoncture” the monthly magazine published by Tunisian ministry of Trade and Handicrafts and ministry of Industry, Energy and SMEs, for the year 2008.
These permits are held by 52 international and Tunisian companies in association with the Tunisian Enterprise of Petroleum Activities (ETAP), as part of 25 association contracts and 27 contracts for production sharing. Here is the breakdown as set in 2008:
-Awarding of 2 research permits and 3 exploration licenses.
– Conversion of 4 exploration permits into research permits
-Deadline for the validity of two exploration permits and renunciation to permit research
-Extension of the validity of 11 research permits
-Renewal of 7 research permits
– And finally, farm-out of 5 permits and one operation concession
In terms of exploration activity, 19 wells were drilled and (17) 2D and 3D seismic campaigns performed. This very encouraging work resulted in achieving 11new discoveries.
With regard to seismic activity, it was marked by the achievement of 17 seismic campaigns on 7 permits and 11 concessions resulting in the acquisition of seismic 2D 1 186 km2 of and 3D seismic 3 508 km2.
2D seismic has been shot on 2 concessions and 5 research licenses while 3D seismic has been acquired on 8 concessions and 3 licenses.
In 2008 , drilling activity represents an important segmentt which has resulted in the continued drilling of 3 wells launched in 2997 and 19 exploration wells (17 onshore and 2 offshore ) carried out both on permits and concessions.
As for wells drilled in 2008, six have reached the Ordovician, namely Bir Ben Tartar-2, Ahlem-1, Azzel North-1, and Durra6 & Larich SBS-1(see drilling chart).
These drilling have recorded «very encouraging” results through the achievement of 10 discoveries in 2007 and 11 ones in 2008.
These 21discoveries in the south of Tunisia allowed to increase Tunisia recoverable reserves by about 35 million toe, some of which are under assessment.
Moreover, the discoveries made on Adam and Cherouq concessions entered into production and have helped to partially offset the natural decline of some fields and maintain a stable level of hydrocarbons domestic production
In light of these results, the exploitation strategy in the coming years will target important objectives, especially gas, such as the Ordovician and Cambrian quartzite sandstone.
2008 exploration investment amounts approximately to $ 396 million against $ 321 million in 2007 and $ 200 million in 2006.
¾ of this 2008 figure are devoted to drilling and seismic. 52% of these 2008 investments were made by European companies, followed by U.S. companies (26%) and Canadian. Tunisian companies’ investment posts 4%.
Forecasts of 2009 investment are estimated at $ 250 million for the drilling of 12 wells and the acquisition of 3D seismic 1 000 km2 and 2D seismic 4 000 km2.
The intensity or decline of exploration activity is mainly due to fluctuations of international crude prices that rose from an average of 61 dollars per barrel in 2006 to 69 dollars in 2007 and to $ 97 in 2008., a year which saw a decline of more than 50% to close the year at less than 40 dollars a barrel after reaching a record peak of 147.3 dollars per barrel on 11 July 2008.
This price rise has resulted in increased costs of drilling operations that went up from an average of $ 6 million in 2005 to 9 million in 2008 for onshore wells and to 16 to $ 48 million for offshore wells because of rising costs of services related to the activities of prospecting, exploration and development in the hydrocarbons sector.