The El Merk onshore oil and gas project deep in the Algerian Sahara Desert celebrated an historic milestone in October.
The landmark El Merk project was officially inaugurated in October, marking an important development in a project which will make a significant contribution to Maersk Oil’s journey to 400,000 barrels per day by 2020. The event, which gathered government and energy sector employees, as well as oil and gas executives drawn from the partner companies and lead contractors at the remote project site, was attended by the Minister of Energy and Mines Youcef Yousfi, and the CEO of Algeria’s National Oil Company, Sonatrach, Abdelhamid Zerguine. El Merk is a significant project for Algeria, and the inauguration was an opportunity to reflect on the huge task of safely bringing on stream a challenging and complex project of impressive scale,
approximately 700 kilometres south of the Mediterranean Sea, in
the Berkine Basin of the Sahara Desert. Exploration excellence
The journey to first oil and the project inauguration, both this year,
began back in 1990, when the initial exploration contracts were
signed with the partners. Of 30 exploration wells drilled in Algeria,
17 resulted in field discoveries, the first of which was in February
1993. The initial discoveries were the El Merk (EMK) and El Merk
East (EME) fields in Block 208. These were followed by the discovery of three major oil fields in Block 404: Hassi Berkine (HBN), Hassi Berkine South (HBNS) and Ourhoud. Later, ten satellite fields were discovered in Block 404. Project delivery success
The remoteness of the project site created some special challenges,
requiring construction and development of an airfield and a road network to serve the site and facilities in the operational decades ahead. The huge site is located approximately 260 kilometres south east of the town of Hassi Messaoud, and is relatively close to both the Tunisian and Libyan borders.
Picture gallery 1 Algeria’s Minister of Energy and Mines Youcef Yousfi leads a delegation of dignitaries around the plant. 2 A plant technician smiles for the camera in the El Merk plant control room. 3 Maersk Oil’s Head of Business Development, Strategy & Commercial, Jón Ferrier addressing the audience at the plant inauguration.
Development of the El Merk project was sanctioned in 2009 and first oil was achieved in March 2013. At year-end, the final stages of development and commissioning work are ongoing. The project has reached a production level of 84,000 barrels per day, and will continue to rise through Q1 2014 to around 145,000 barrels per day plateau production of oil, condensate and LPG. Gas dehydration and compression related to oil train 1 began in May of this year. Facilities at El Merk field include a gas train processing 600 million cubic feet per day. The gas injection system consists of three turbochargers each of 17 MW, while the waste gas system of the booster comprises two turbochargers 19 MW each. The plant has storage for 270,000 barrels of oil, 110,000 barrels of condensate and 6,250 barrels of LPG. Export of the produced oil takes place through a 30” pipeline linking with Algeria’s export infrastructure to the north and the produced condensate and LPG will be exported through two 16” pipelines to Gassi Touil to the west. Experience and Contribution
Through its participation as a non-operator, Maersk Oil has worked with Anadarko and ENI to provide technical input into the exploration phases of the project. The project is particularly significant for broadening Maersk Oil’s onshore expertise, complementing the Dunga Field project in Kazakhstan and the work carried out in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. El Merk also marks the company’s third project delivered in North Africa.