Exploration and development activity is focused in the Bir Rebaa desert, located in the central-eastern part of the country, in blocks 403a/d (Eni 65%-100%), North ROM (Eni 35%), 401a/402a (Eni 55%), 403 (Eni 50%), 405b (Eni 75%) and 212 (Eni 22.38%). In the North Berkine basin, Eni's activities are concentrated in the Sif Fatima II, Zemlet El Arbi and Ourhoud II blocks, where we are 49% operators. We also hold 12.25% in the non-operated blocks 404 and 208. Our Algerian exploration and production operations are regulated by Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) concession contracts. In July 2018 Eni and Sonatrach agreed the extension of block 403, the agreement also includes the construction of a pipeline to connect BRN's assets with MLE with the aim of creating a gas hub. In the Sif Fatima II, Zemlet El Arbi and Ourhoud II concessions in the North Berkine Basin, the accelerated development of the estimated 75 million boe of reserves owned by Eni and an exploration campaign are underway. The oil wells were started up in May 2019. The production of gas fields will start at the same time as the start of the BRN-MLE pipeline. In December 2018, the consortium formed by Sonatrach, Eni and Total was granted two exploration permits to carry out seismic acquisition activities in the Algerian offshore sector. We are operators of the permit to the east called Skikda where in the spring of 2019 we acquired about 2,000 km2 of 3D seismic and 200 km2 of 2D seismic.
In July 2018 Eni and Sonatrach agreed the extension of Block 403. The agreement also includes the construction of a pipeline to connect the assets of Bir Rebaa North (BRN) with Menzel Ledjmet East (MLE) with the aim of creating a gas hub. In the Sif Fatima II, Zemlet El Arbi and Ourhoud II concessions in the North Berkine basin, the accelerated development of the estimated 75 million boe of reserves owned by Eni and an exploration campaign are underway. The oil wells were started up in May 2019. During the same year, oil production start-up was achieved by means of seven production wells and the connection to the existing facilities of the BRN area in Block 403. In the first months of 2020, gas production began with the drilling of two wells and the connection of two additional wells to the existing facilities, following the completion of the pipeline from BRN to the MLE treatment plan in Block 405b, as well as of exploration and delineation activities in the area. The project will allow for the export of associated gas from Block 403 (BRN and BRSW) and the development of gas fields in the Berkine North's Blocks. Moreover, in 2019 activities yielded positive results also owing to the discovery of petroleum and natural gas in the Ourhoud II concession.
In 2019, development activities in Blocks 403a/d and ROM North, 401a/402a, 403, 405b, and 404, concerned production optimisation. Development activities in Block 208 concerned, instead, the continued development of the El Merk field with the drilling of production and water injection wells.
In July 2020 we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Sonatrach, in the presence of the Minister of Energy, for joint work aimed at identifying exploration, development and production opportunities and extending the fast track development model successfully applied to the North Berkine project. Furthermore, agreements have been concluded for the gas marketing of the North Berkine Blocks and the commercial conditions of the gas import contract in Italy for the thermal year 2020-21.
In 2020 exploration activities yielded positive results with the BKNES-1 near-field oil discovery well (Eni’s interest 49%) in the Berkine North area. During the year, gas production was started at the Berkine North complex (Eni’s interest 49%) leveraging a fast-track development intended to valorize the existing gas reserves. The development program included the drilling of four producing wells that were linked to the existing facilities, as well as the laying of a pipeline connecting the producing field to the MLE treatment plant in Block 405b (Eni’s interest 75%). The upgrading of the MLE treatment plant was completed in the year and is expected to reach a gross peak production of 60 kboe a day leveraging also the production of the Block 403 (Eni’s interest 50%) and of the Berkine North area by the end of 2021. Other development activities mainly concerned production optimization in the operated Blocks 403a/d and ROM Nord (Eni’s interest 35%), Blocks 401a/402a (Eni’s interest 55%), Block 403, Block 405b and Block 404 (Eni’s interest 12.25%).