#Algeria Shale Gas: figures and truths

Shale gas: figures and truths

By Dr MOUSSA Kacem of Anti-Shale Gas Euro-Maghreban Collective (CEMAGAS), Algeria

The few studies and surveys conducted by international organizations, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IEA), oil cans as Total and other institutions (Ministries of Ecology) have to have a more or less clear to world reserves in general and our country in particular.

Environmental damage exploitation of shale gas are enormous.

This work indicates records of exploration and / or exploitation of shale were treated differently and subsequently managed, and of course, totally dependent on the characteristics of the countries concerned. Two countries flagship elucidate the situation well, the United States of America where the lobbies are very muscular, the government decided to move quickly to action by exploiting thousands of wells. In France, it is quite the opposite, environmental organizations and movements are so strong and efficient, came to kowtow to the government. Although the rhetoric about reserve estimates, they remain for the moment the only way to assess the quantities of shale gas present in our basement and those of other parts of the world.

I / Data reserves:

According to some estimates, about 448,000 billion m3 of global reserves, North America holds the record with 106,400 billion m3, then just Africa with its 72,000 billion m3, Asia ranks third with its 70,000 billion m3. The fourth position is awarded to South America with 58,000 billion m3. We can easily see that at the end of this contribution, we can see that there are other estimates, indicating that although reserve calculations can be appreciated differently.

II / Consequences of exploitation of shale gas on the environment:

It was around 2010 that policy makers, experts and specialists are beginning to register real incidents on the environment of different shale gas operations that were conducted in the United States of America (USA), we can cite ;

– Large leaks of gases in the atmosphere
– Contamination of groundwater
– Impacts on Public Health

In this batch made hazards, the U.S. hold the majority of its 493 000 including drilling operations that generate multiple incidents unpredictable and predictable. Europe and Africa are at the exploration stage, but the decision is never made with large populations where the debate is still missing or the public interest inquiry. In France, under pressure from civil society, NGOs and environmental groups, the government has forbidden, through the Act of July 13, the use of hydraulic fracturing.

If France and many other countries do not have technologically advanced as strong expertise in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, whereas it is for developing countries such as Africa, including our country and Tunisia? These countries avoiding the pressures of their people prefer to use misinformation in advancing safe operations or extractions as was recently stated by our Prime Minister, suddenly they speak pneumatic fracturing, fracturing exothermic GPL13 fracturing, fracturing arc electrical or electrical fracturing geomaterials.

The only real hydraulic fracturing is known that, there used fracturing fluids (mainly water) that are evaluated per well from 10000 to 20000 m3 (ie 90%) of proppants (mainly sand), estimated 800 to 900 m3 water volume of 15,000 m3 (that is to say, per well), which is a percentage of 0.5%, and finally the additives represented by 500 to 700 chemicals (0.5%) which 29 products are classified as carcinogens.

III / Risks related to the exploration and exploitation of shale gas:

Tens of risks can be listed, but most important at the beginning of the exploitation or exploration are;
– Risks multiple landscape destruction and pollution sectors drilling, it must be added the large quantities of water needed for hydraulic fracturing.
– The technical operations are more numerous and more complex in the case of hydraulic fracturing with traditional drilling.
– The risks associated with the use of additives in fracturing and potential problems tubing leaks and seepage-related products with the extraction of groundwater and related obligations of operators vis-à-vis the law .

IV / Risks, constraints and consequences of shale gas extraction:

Post-operation risks are even more devastating, we include the following;
– Damage / destruction of the surrounding landscape, degradation of landscape quality: drilling a large number of wells (every 200 to 500 m in the USA).
– Risk for drinking water (groundwater pollution, pollution of mineral springs deep).
– Contamination of shallow aquifers by gas and fracking fluids (default cementing the upper drilling).
– Volumetric water needed for fracturing (between 9000 and 20000 m3 per bit according to sources Total-French Ministry of Ecology).
– Effluent Treatment
– Processing and release / re-release of tailings effluent, chemicals cocktail of hydro-fracturing chemicals + floors up (heavy metals, radionuclides, radon, uranium, radium, etc. ….).
– Industrial facilities that manage the extraction of shale gas (phase exploration or production) may be subject to accidents or natural hazards: explosion, fire, rain, storms Cevennes, floods, earthquakes and.
– The layers of shale that have the highest productivity are also those who have a strong natural gamma radiation, therefore health risk.
– Fires and explosions accidental or criminal wells
– Gas leaks into the environment, the accidental release of CH4 in the atmosphere increases the greenhouse gases.

V / location exploration and / or exploitation of shale in some countries and continents

We deliberately chose two continents Europe and Africa, as the country of France for the first and the countries of North Africa for the second.

In Europe:

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that there are 36 trillion m3 of gas and conventional 14 trillion m3 of unconventional gas. In France, the topic was the « one » of the news during the winter of 2010-2011. Public opinion, politicians and local associations were highly mobilized to denounce the potential start of shale gas exploration. We note several arguments: the risk of pollution from the use of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing with health risks, on the other hand the issue of water required in areas where water is already rare, the risk of distortion of the landscape, the lack of public debate on the issue (mining code compliance), the inconsistency between local management (in particular focus on tourism development) and the national management. Faced with the determination of the mobilization, the government took the initiative to polls, surveys etc. According to a survey, 91% of French people have recommended. Rather solar, 81% wind and 69% for hydropower.
To date, no exploration drilling has been conducted on potential deposits of shale gas.


Due to the current state of development of Africa, and some countries of instability, we can consider that if there will be development of shale gas exploitation, it will therefore profoundly influence the situation, both micro-and macro level economic and geopolitical. As for Australia, the issue of water resources for hydraulic fracturing operations will arise so blatant in areas that have little. In South Africa, shale reserves are estimated at 13.7 trillion m3, so the first reserve in Africa. As for France, South Africa has used a moratorium to explain the dangers and risks of major exploitation of shale gas by hydraulic fracturing, the moratorium until 2013.

In Libya, the reserves are estimated at 8.2 trillion m3, so this is the second African reserves of shale gas and the first in North Africa.
In the context of political and military instability, it is difficult to predict the evolution of the situation, the state and agreements become involved if there had of course.

In Algeria, the reserves are estimated at 6.5 trillion m3, so the second and third African reserve for North Africa. Sonatrach Group and ENI signed an agreement in April 2011 for the exploitation of shale gas.
A year later, in May, the group Sonelgaz sign an agreement with a U.S. company for exploration drilling of the first exploration of shale gas in the basin Ahnet (border with Libya).

Following the announcement of this information, several petitions were signed in Algeria and abroad to simply stop even this exploration campaign that would have the same consequences and risks that actual exploitation.
The developments can go to the actual operation if the adoption of the amended law of oil would be accomplished by the Algerian parliament and senate.

In Tunisia, the reserves were estimated at 510 billion m3, thus it comes fourth in Africa and third in North Africa. The government has signed an agreement with Shell group to go directly to the operation, which will automatically generated implications and risks of the Algerian landscape and environment.

In Morocco, the reserves were estimated at 311 billion m3, but it is unfortunate for this country, there is no data or reliable information about the signing of agreements or contracts for exploration and / or exploitation.

Western Sahara, reserves are 198 billion m3, but these deposits are, as expected, claimed by Morocco to increase these reserves in the region.

In Mauritania, the situation is the opposite of forecasts since the reserves were valued at zero cubic meters of shale gas, which encourages the countries to use renewable energy instead.

But still one remark is necessary is that there really are no reserves or the means for calculating its reserves were simply biased.
In the end, we can give the reserves by continent;
– Set North America: 54676000000000 m3
– Set Asia: 39 329 000 000 000 m3
– Set South America: 34,686 m3
– Set Africa: 29 504 000 000 000 m3
– Set Europe: 18 093 000 000 000 m3
– Australia: 11 213 000 000 000 m3.

The total global reserves of shale gas is estimated at 223,573 billion m3.

Dr. Moussa Kacem
Lecturer at the University of Oran
Expert Environment
Expert in mines and quarries


Émail: moussakacem@yahoo.fr
Skype: moussa.kacem
Tel: 00 213 551 71 33 12 (Algérie)
Tel: 00.33. 75 10 65 359 (France)

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