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By Tarek Amara
TUNIS, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Tunisia will almost double production of natural gas to about 65,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day this year, the industry and energy minister, Slim Feriani, told Reuters on Friday.
The country’s gas output will jump from 35,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boed) when the southern Nawara gas field comes onstream in June, Feriani said.
“We will raise our production by about 30,000 barrels of oil equivalent when the Nawara project in the south will start,” Feriani told Reuters in interview.
This project will be jointly owned by Austria’s OMV and Tunisian National Oil Company ETAP with investments of about $700 million.
Feriani also said Tunisia was seeking to attract about $2 billion in foreign investment to produce 1,900 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy in three years. “We will start launching international bids for the production of renewable wind and sun energy. We aim to produce 1,900 MW by investment of up to $2 billion until 2022,” he said.
This would represent about 22 percent of the country’s electricity production.
Tunisia also plans to raise production of phosphate from 3 million tonnes to 5 million in 2019, he said.
Raising the output will boost economic growth and provide revenue to revive its faltering economy, the minister said.
Phosphate exports are a key source of foreign currency reserves, which have dropped to levels worth just 82 days of imports, according Tunisia’s central bank.
Tunisia produced about 8.2 million tonnes of phosphate in 2010 but output dropped after its 2011 revolution. Annual output has not exceeded 4.5 million tonnes since 2011.
Feriani said lower production has caused Tunisia to lose markets and about $1 billion each year.
Phosphate exports were hit by repeated protests in the main producing region of Gafsa, where unemployed youth demanding jobs blockaded rail transport. (Reporting By Tarek Amara; Editing by Ulf Laessing and David Evans)