Tunisia’s Oil Woes Here To Stay

Tunisia’s 38,400 b/d of crude output in 2018 was the lowest since the North African country began producing in 1966. Local output now meets just 39% of domestic demand. Investment is needed to reverse the decline. But the big players active in the country, Eni, Shell and OMV, are more interested in heading for the door than splashing the cash.

Tunisia’s glory days of being a net oil exporter are long gone. Crude output has nosedived in recent years and in 2018 it only managed 38,400 b/d. That this fall is of a relatively-modest 1% from 2017’s previous 50-year low is only due to the fact that last year’s output was crippled by strikes and blockades ( MEES, 19 January 2018 ). Underlying decline and a chronic lack of investment are the key reason for this year’s further collapse.

With demand rising over the last few years, production is now only enough to meet 39% of consumption (see chart 1). This means rising imports, and a rising import bill. The 2018 trade deficit came in at a near-record $7.2bn, with oil and gas imports making up a record $2.3bn ( MEES, 1 February ) and accounting for almost all of the 11.6% year-on-year increase in the overall deficit. Stemming the seemingly-inexorable rise in the country’s oil import bill would require higher output. But further falls are more likely. (CONTINUED - 1694 WORDS)


chart 1: Oil Demand ('000 B/D) Has Been Steadily On The Rise, But Tunisia's Ability To Meet It Has Nose-Dived
chart 2: Crude Output ('000 B/D) Hit An All-Time-Low In 2018, While Eni, Shell And OMV See Their Share Of Total Output Drop To 60% In 2018 From 74% In 2017
chart 3: Eni Tunisia Oil Output ('000 B/D, Gross Operated)
chart 4: Shell Tunisia Crude Output ('000 B/D): Long-Term Decline But Share Of Offshore Output Edges Higher As Other Fields Decline More