UK’s Petrofac resumes Tunisia gas production

British energy firm Petrofac has resumed production at gas plant in Tunisia after a stoppage that lasted several months, the company and a trade union said on Saturday.

“Yesterday (Friday) natural gas was brought by pipeline to Sfax” from the Chergui field operated by Petrofac, Abdelhadi Ben Jemaa, secretary general of the powerful UGTT trade union in second city Sfax, told AFP.

Petrofac confirmed that work had resumed at the Chergui gas field concession on Kerkennah island in southeast Tunisia.

“Yes, we have recently resumed,” a spokesperon for the energy firm told AFP from London.

 In September, Tunisia’s government said Petrofac was pulling out of the North African country because of a labour dispute that had paralysed its operations since the start of 2016.

Days later the government said a deal had been worked out, but at the end of 2016 the company declared its “technical shutdown”, following further protests by demonstrators calling for permanent jobs.

The protesters, who were also demanding development projects for their region, blocked roads used by company trucks.

The unrest began at the start of 2016 after the end of a programme largely financed by Petrofac and created in the wake of Tunisia’s 2011 uprising to get unemployed graduates into work, although often without permanent contracts or benefits.

Petrofac said it could no longer fund the programme and called on the Tunisian state to take over.

Ben Jemma said Petrofac was able to resume operations after work was undertaken to develop the small port of Sidi Fraj in Kerkennah.

This, he said, would allow trucks to avoid the Sidi Youssef port which was on the road that protesters blocked previously.

“It is too soon to say if this new solution (will work)… but it is positive,” he added.

Petrofac has a 45% stake in the Chergui facility, with Tunisia’s national oil company holding the rest.

Resumption of work there is important for Tunisia, which has been battling high unemployment and has also been hit by a spate of jihadist attacks.

It also comes after President Beji Caid Essebsi said on Friday that economic indicators for the first quarter of 2017 “are relatively positive”.

News 24

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