March 26, 2019 / 12:47 PM / a year ago

Algeria's oil, gas production unaffected by unrest: IEA

OSLO (Reuters) - Algeria’s oil and gas production appears to be unaffected so far by the political unrest gripping the country, an International Energy Agency (IEA) official said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Algerian state energy firm Sonatrach' solar plant is pictured in Bir Rebaa oil field in southern Algeria, November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Lamine Chikhi

A major oil and gas producer and OPEC member, Algeria has seen a wave of mass protests over President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s 20-year rule since Feb. 22.

“There are as yet no signs that (Algeria’s) actual production and exports have been affected, but it’s a situation that we will watch and see how it develops,” Neil Atkinson, head of the IEA oil industry and market division, told Reuters.

Industry sources said last week that talks between Exxon Mobil and Algeria to develop a natural gas field in the North African country had stalled because of unrest.

Separately, Atkinson said oil production in Venezuela could be further hit if U.S. citizens working in the oil industry have to leave the Latin American country due to U.S. sanctions.

“That could have a huge impact depending on the ability of the projects to recruit Venezuelans to do the job ... It’s yet another potential factor in the ongoing decline of the oil industry,” he said.

Industry sources said production could be hit due to oil service firms, such as Halliburton and Schlumberger, withdrawing their workers.

Norway’s Equinor, which has a 9.67 percent stake in the Petrocedeno heavy oil project with Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA, also said the industry would be hit if U.S. workers left.

“The chances for Venezuela to recover production are higher as long as those workers are there,” Rafael Herrera, market analysis manager at Equinor, who had previously worked for PDVSA, told an energy seminar in Oslo.

“After summer, the challenges will be much higher,” he added.

Last week, U.S. imports of Venezuelan crude dropped to zero from about 587,000 barrels per day in late January after Washington hit Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government and PDVSA with a series of sanctions.

Chevron, Halliburton, Schlumberger, Baker Hughes and Weatherford International have operations in Venezuela, and are allowed to continue transactions and activities with PDVSA and its joint ventures through July 27.

Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis; Editing by Dale Hudson

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