In the heart of the Sahara desert, the silence is total. Two kilometres beneath the black stony surface of the Tademait Plateau some of the most valuable energy resources on the planet lie waiting and the job of retrieving them has begun.
Krechba, Teg and Reg, three huge fields that together hold around 160 billion cubic metres of natural gas, are being tapped in a $2 billion project led by BP, Statoil and Sonatrach that is providing gas to markets in Spain, Portugal and Italy through pipelines that criss-cross the Sahara and go under the Mediterranean Sea. Not far away to the south, awaiting development, are four equally gigantic natural assets.
Known collectively as the In Salah Gas (ISG) project, production started in this remote corner of the world 1,200km south of Algiers back in 2004 and is expected to last for decades. Output from ISG has already boosted Algerian gas exports by 15 per cent a year, and today the country supplies 30 per cent of Europe’s natural gas needs, second only to Russia.
Krechba – known as the ‘diamond in the desert’ – is at the core of this contribution. Gas produced from the Teg and Reg wells is dehydrated in process plants at the two sites and transported by pipelines to a central processing facility 120km to the north at Krechba. Here the gas joins that from Krechba’s wells and is compressed for the onward journey to Spain or Italy or re-injected for storage in the giant Hassi R’Mel gas field.
For Rolls-Royce, this Saharan cornucopia is turning into a major commercial opportunity. Two RB211-G62 gas turbine packages, each generating 27,840kW of electricity, power ISG’s Krechba central processing facility and provide the muscle to sustain gas production at the required ‘plateau’ level of 9bcm/yr. A third RB211 unit is on order for delivery to Krechba in 2009 with operation in the Sahara expected to begin in 2010.
Aerial view of the world's first full-scale carbon capture project at a gas field
Workers at the Tegentour gas processing facility where gas from the Teg and Reg fields is dehydrated