A well-developed transport and distribution system of gas pipelines, a substantial shipping fleet, and a range of international partnerships are essential to Sonatrach’s success, allowing Africa’s largest oil and gas company to control both upstream and downstream operations in Algeria.
Allaoua Saidani, Sonatrach’s Vice-President for Pipeline Transport, says, “We have an 11,806-mile transport network that criss-crosses the country. Our international and trans-Mediterranean pipelines are a source of pride for Algeria. Our first pipeline, which runs between Hassi Messaoud and Arzew and known as Loseta, was ready to operate in June 1965, just a year after the creation of Sonatrach, and now we have another 1,056 miles under construction, following new discoveries such as in Reggane, or in response to new demand.”
Algeria is already the third largest exporter of gas to the European Union, after Norway and Russia, and accounts for almost 20 per cent of the EU’s supplies. However, its relative proximity means it has the potential to become Europe’s number one supplier of gas and electricity. Sonatrach takes pride not only in the amount of gas exported, but in the reliability with which it is delivered.
“Sonatrach is renowned for its service quality and reliability. We have consistently delivered via pipelines for 40 years without any interruptions or hitches.
ALLAOUA SAIDINI, Sonatrach Vice-President
for Pipeline Transport
“Nowadays, we are exporting 30 billion cubic metres of gas per year, and Sonatrach is renowned for its service quality and reliability. Our clients know the high standard of our product and we have consistently delivered via pipelines for 40 years without any interruptions or hitches, unlike, for example, Ukraine’s crisis in 2009 and the problems experienced with Russian gas. Even during the ‘Black Decade’ we continued to offer a remarkable continuity of supply,” says Mr Saidani.
Yamina Hamdi, Vice-President of Commercial Activity, adds: “Listening to our clients’ needs and then adapting ourselves according to demand is a leitmotif for Sonatrach. The company really is a reliable and flexible supplier: earlier this year for instance, with the very cold winter, we have been responding to a higher demand, especially from Europe.”
Four main pipeline routes facilitate the efficient transportation of gas to Europe, including the Enrico Mattei gas line, also known as the Trans-Mediterranean pipeline. Operated in partnership with Italian multinational ENI since 1982, it runs from the Hassi R’mel field in Algeria to mainland Italy via Tunisia and Sicily.The Maghreb-Europe Gas Pipeline, or Pedro Duran Farell pipeline, was built in partnership with Endesa, Cepsa and GDF, and has been operational since 1996. It runs through Benisaf and then under the Mediterranean for 130 miles at a depth of 7,054 feet – a real technological challenge – to Andalusia, Spain. The network is constantly being upgraded with new export lines, such as the Medgaz natural gas line between Algeria and Almeria, Spain, which was inaugurated last year. Also, the Algeria-Sardinia-Italy Galsi line, constructed with Italian partners Enel, Edison and the Hera Group, is soon to be opened. In addition, Sonatrach is planning the Trans-Sahara Gas Pipeline, which will link oil-rich Nigeria to the Mediterranean coast.
“Now we are diversifying our routes: Italy was supplied by one route, now we have two pipelines, and the same goes for Spain. This diversification assures greater security and flexibility,” says Mr Saidani.
Mrs Hamdi adds, “We have developed trade and distribution subsidiaries abroad, in Italy, Spain (Sonatrach Gas Comercializadora) and the United Kingdom, with SPC, our biggest subsidiary abroad, based in London. It has been operating since 1988, trading oil and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) around the world, which is a good way to be more present in the downstream sector within our industry. We also have a share in the regasification terminal at Reganosa, Spain, a 49 per cent stake in the Propanchem petrochemical factory in Tarragona, and storage facilities for crude oil in Korea.”
In order to reach destinations beyond the reach of pipelines, Sonatrach needs flexible and reliable shipping. Its subsidiary Hyproc maintains a fleet that is mostly 100 per cent-owned by Sonatrach, with the remainder shared in 50/50 ventures with Itoshu and Fergusson.
Nine liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers, with a combined capacity of one million cubic metres of LNG, service the needs of both long-term clients and occasional customers buying on the spot market.
“Having this fleet has enabled Sonatrach to launch a powerful and effective sales strategy. We have 10 LPG transporters, with capacities ranging from 6,000m3 to 82,000m3, and Sonatrach exports almost 8 million tonnes of LPG per year. This enables us to retain the loyalty of clients in our local markets, while helping to develop sales in more remote areas,” says Mrs Hamdi.