HASSI MESSAOUD, Algeria (Reuters) - - Algeria’s Sonatrach will drill 290 wells in 2017 in comparison with 265 in 2016, the head of the oil and gas giant’s drilling division told Reuters late on Friday. OPEC member Algeria has seen a slow rise in energy output this year after years of energy stagnation, helped in part by increased production at existing fields like Hassi Messaoud and new gas fields coming online in its southern Sahara region. The North African country has struggled to draw in foreign energy companies to help it to explore new fields, its efforts undermined by low global oil prices and what many investors see as tough contract terms and operating conditions. “Of the 290 wells, 190 will be for production and 100 for exploration,” the head of Sonatrach’s drilling division Khelil Kortobi told Reuters in an interview at Hassi Messaoud, explaining next year’s drilling programme. Hassi Messaoud, Algeria’s biggest oil field, produces more than 400,000 barrels per day. Oil output is expected to reach 69 million tonnes of oil equivalent in 2016, against 67 million tonnes last year, while gas production will rise to 132.2 billion cubic meters (bcm) from 128.3 bcm in 2015 and 130.9 bcm in 2014, a Sonatrach report showed earlier this year. Like other producers, Algeria has been hit by the global oil price crash and is focusing on boosting production to alleviate pressure on the government budget. Around 97 percent of Algeria’s revenues are from oil and gas. “Our key objective is to rise total output by 20 percent by 2020,” Kortobi said. Kortobi said Sonatrach has 100 drilling rigs, with 30 percent of the equipment belonging to foreign firms including China’s Sinopec and Greatwall, India’s John Energy and WDI. A major supplier of gas to the European market, Algeria was in talks earlier this year with energy companies and European Union officials to explore ways Algeria can adapt to more competitive markets and attract investment.
Editing by Patrick Markey and Catherine Evans