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Fracking opposition, Tunisia


Tunisia has seen a fierce debate in recent months over plans for shale gas exploration. Tunisia sits on the Ghadames Basin, one of the two major potential sources of shale gas in North Africa. The Ghadames Basin stretches from eastern Algeria through southern Tunisia to northwestern Libya[1]. As noted by the Tunisian Association for Transparency in Energy and Mines (ATTEM), no official document has been published on this subject except for a September news story about four wells to be drilled in 2013 in Sfax, Sousse, El Jem and Kairouan[2]. On the back of this news the international trade union, Public Services International (PSI), announced that they are coordinating a national campaign in Tunisia against the extraction of shale gas due to the pressure it puts on the scarce water resources, as well as the pollution it creates. The Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) is working with PSI aiming to block the reported extraction deal between the Tunisian government and Shell. The UGTT have printed flyers and stickers, and have travelled to rural areas to discuss with community members, activists and leaders[3]. An anti-fracking protest took place in Tunis, outside the Tunisian Ministry of Industry and Energy in early November, and drew around 50 participants[1]. ATTEM asked the government for clarification on the issue, especially with regards the legal framework for non-conventional hydrocarbons and a plan to protect the environment. It also has concerns about corruption in the oil and gas sector and wants to see a full audit of the industry[2]. For its part, the Tunisian government says it is still considering a request for an exploration permit submitted by Shell. Indications are, however, that fracking has already been taking place at some level by other companies. In a 2011 report, the US Energy Information Administration reports that Tunisia had the first shale gas well and frack in North Africa in March 2010 and is actively supporting the pursuit of this resource[4].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Fracking opposition, Tunisia
State or province:Sfax Governorate, Sousse Governorate, Mahdia Governorate, Kairouan Governorate
Location of conflict:Sfax, Sousse, El Jem, Kairouan
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Shale gas fracking
Specific commodities:Natural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project details

There is little information available in terms of exact project details. According to a 2011 analysis and projections report from the United States Energy Information Administration, Tunisia has 18 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable shale gas reserves, a relatively small number compared to neighbouring Libya, which has 290 trillion cubic feet[4]. In September 2011, it was reported that Royal Dutch Shell had won a $150 million oil exploration deal in Tunisia and this has been linked with interest in the countrys shale gas reserves. Tunisias Industry Ministry were pushed to respond to reports that they were preparing to grant an unconventional license to Shell in the Kairouan region of the country. Denying the completed agreement, the Ministry announced they had responded with an appeal for an environmental and water impact analysis[5].

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Level of Investment for the conflictive project150,000,000 (with reference to Shells investment)
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2012
Company names or state enterprises:Royal Dutch Shell (Shell) from Netherlands
Winstar from Canada
Cygam from Canada
Relevant government actors:Tunisian Minister of Industry and Energy, National Committee for Hydrocarbons
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Tunisian Association for Transparency in Energy and Mines (ATTEM), Tunisian General Labour Union, Tunisian Workers Party, Public Services International (PSI), AgriEcoForest
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Institutional changes
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
The plans could be abandoned.
Proposal and development of alternatives:The mobilisers want the project to be abandoned. There are associated calls for a full audit of the energy sector, including the regulatory and institutional levels.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:It is too early to tell. Some reports refer to sources within the Tunisian government which say that the plans will be shelved, but there is no confirmation of this.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Hydrocarbons Code under Law No. 99-93, 17 August 1999.

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Tusa, Felix (2012). International Union Enters Debate on Shale Gas in Tunisia. Available at: Accessed 10 February 2013.
[click to view]

[2] African Manager (2012). Tunisia is in no way prepared for shale gas, according to ATTEM. Available at: Accessed 10 February 2013.
[click to view]

[3] PSI International (2012). Tunisia: Trade unions organise national campaign against fracking. Available at: Accessed 10 February 2013.
[click to view]

[4] US Energy Information Administration (2011). World Shale Gas Resources: An Initial Assessment of 14 Regions Outside the United States. Accessed 13 February 2013. Available at:
[click to view]

[5] Med Insight (2012). Tunisia and an undefined energy future. Available at: Accessed 12 February 2013.
[click to view]

TNI on fracking: Old Story, New Threat: Fracking and the global land grab
[click to view]

[click to view]

African Manager (2012). Tunisia: shale gas project canceled! Available at: Accessed 10 February 2013.
[click to view]

Yaros, Bernard (2012). Shell Responds to Concerns Over Shale Gas Extraction in Tunisia. Available at: Accessed 13 February 2013.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network



Demotix (2012). No to shale gas in Tunisia. Available at: Accessed 13 February 2013.
[click to view]

France24 (2012). The week in the Maghreb. Available at: Accessed 13 February 2012.
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Sofiane Reguigui
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:241
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