Sonatrach, Algeria’s state-owned hydrocarbon player, has unveiled a massive new gas discovery in the Sahara Desert that could house as much as 12 trillion cubic feet of reserves and ranks as the country’s biggest find in the last 20 years.

The discovery — which is set to be brought on stream this year — will be a huge boon to Algeria and its efforts to boost gas production in order to meet increasing demand from Italy and the European Union which are switching rapidly away from Russian supplies.

It is unclear if this new resource was found by an exploration well or is part of an ongoing appraisal and development campaign into new plays in and around the huge, producing Hassi R'Mel field, some 550 kilometres south of Algiers.

According to Sonatrach, the new resource lies close to the Hassi R’Mel field and its infrastructure so the aim is to fast-track it to first production in November this year.

Production rates are forecast to be about 350 million cubic feet per day.

According to a preliminary assessment, Sonatrach said the resource potential of the discovery ranges between 3.5 Tcf and 12 Tcf, plus condensate.

Sonatrach said the new resource “has highlighted [the] significant hydrocarbon potential” of the LD2 reservoir, part of the Lias Carbonate play in the greater Hassi R’Mel area.

“These volumes are one of the largest reserve evaluations in the last 20 years,” Sonatrach said, adding that a campaign is under way “to confirm estimated volumes and achieve fast-track production”.

Hassi R’Mel is the largest gas field in Algeria and remains the largest producing asset even though it came on stream in the 1960s.

Its gas is sent north to the Medgaz pipeline that links Algeria with Spain and also supplies the Arzew LNG plant.

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