The future of Algeria’s energy industry just got a little more murky as the interim president of the country fired the chief executive of Sonatrach and replaced him with the executive hitherto in charge of exploration and production.
The former chief executive, Abdelmoumene Ould Kaddour, had been part of long-time Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s circle, who earlier this month stepped down amid intensifying protests insisting on a government change. The replacement, Reuters note, was promoted by Kaddour.
According to analysts quoted by Reuters, the change at the helm of Algeria’s energy company did not have anything to do with how Kaddour ran the company. It had all to do with his closeness to the ally circle of the former Algerian president.
Even so, the chances of foreign companies flocking back to Algeria are slim until the situation becomes clearer. Exxon, BP, and Equinor have all put the brakes on their investment plans for the North African country amid the escalating protests in the last couple of months. Exxon was about to sign a preliminary deal for a trading joint venture with Sonatrach in the next few months. BP has a long presence in the country, and so does Norway’s Equinor, and both had new investment intentions that may now be put on hold.
Algeria produces around 1.1 million bpd of crude oil, which makes its output comparable to Libya’s. Oil reserves are estimated at 12 billion barrels. Yet it is also a major natural gas producer and home to the third-largest shale gas reserves in the world, at 20 trillion cu ft, according to U.S. government data. Production was around 94.78 billion cubic meters for 2017, of which 53.89 billion cubic meters was exported. Oil exports account for roughly half of Algeria’s output.