The British energy company, Petrofac has allegedly threatened to pull out of Tunisia and withdraw it’s investment in the country entirely if sit-in demonstrations do not cease today.
The British energy giant has reportedly stated that, should protests on Kerkennah not be resolved by close of business today that it will close it’s gas operation on the island. Speaking to Express FM yesterday, Energy Minister Hela Cheikrouhou said, “Petrofac officials told us they will be forced to declare force majeure and resort to international courts for their losses if the production will not return immediately.”
Contacted by Tunisia Live about the threat to withdraw from Tunisia entirely, the British company declined to comment.
In April of this year, the decision by Petrofac to withdraw the stipend it had been paying to 266 of the islanders in return for social and environmental work provoked widespread disruption and violent protests, with continuous demonstrations outside of Petrofac’s plant on Kerkennah halting production since.
Mosaique FM have reported that a delegation of unemployed people called upon the UGTT earlier today to urge for the further development of the islands, specifically calling upon petrochemical companies to contribute towards a development fund of some 10 Billion TDN.
Petrofac’s threat to withdraw from Tunisia poses a potential threat to Tunisia’s energy strategy. According to Reuters, Petrofac supplies Tunisia with 13% of it’s gas supplies. Should Kerkennah close down entirely, Tunisia will have no choice but to resort to Algerian gas imports, which are estimated to have already cost around $100 million in the first nine months of this year, which could lead to a rise in household gas prices for STEG customers.
Petrofac’s presence in Tunisia dates back to a 2007 with the Ben Ali regime, the legitimacy of which has itself come into question. According to the company’s spokesperson, Petrofac “has previously designed and built projects in the country including the Hasdrubal gas plant. It has operations at the Chergui gas field,” as well as it’s base in Kerkennah.