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TUNIS: Italy’s Eni will stop its hydrocarbon activities in Tunisia to focus on clean energy, the Tunisian energy ministry said, amid recurrent social unrest near oil installations in the country.
The giant energy company will give up mining licenses for nine oil concessions it was running jointly with the Tunisian government but will continue to invest in renewable energy in the North African country, a ministry spokesperson said.
Eni declined to comment on the report.
It was not immediately clear when the company, which has been operating in Tunisia since 1961, would halt its oil and gas activities.
According to its website, the Italian firm’s work is concentrated in desert areas in southern Tunisia and in the Mediterranean offshore area of Hammamet.
In 2019, oil production was two million barrels (equivalent to just below 40,000 barrels per day) or about one fifth of Tunisia’s total production of hydrocarbons.
The energy ministry said Eni has not found buyers for its shares in the oil concessions, but that the Tunisian government was looking for new investors.
It denied reports that Anglo-Dutch firm Shell and Austria’s OMV were also planning to cease activities in Tunisia.
The North African country has been rocked by frequent protests in recent years, namely in the marginalized southern Tataouine region where unemployed youths last year blocked an oil installation for months.
In February, the army intervened to stop a dozen protesters from accessing the El-Kamour oil production site and blockading a pipeline, according to the protest movement.
The pipeline carries half of the crude produced by Tunisia’s modest oil sector and has been blocked several times, notably in 2017 by sit-ins that were followed by clashes with security forces.
And on Thursday protesters demanding jobs blocked a hydrocarbon storage site in Skhira, in the central-eastern governorate of Sfax.