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Algeria's state energy company is ready to supply Europe with more gas during a possible decline caused by the Ukraine crisis, its chief executive Toufik Hakkar said on Sunday.
He said Sonatrach was ready to pump additional gas to the EU from its surplus through the Transmed pipeline linking Algeria to Italy.
Sonatrach is "a reliable gas supplier for the European market and is willing to support its long-term partners in the event of difficult situations", Mr Hakkar told the daily Liberte.
But he said this would be contingent on the availability of a surplus of gas or liquified natural gas after national demand and "contractual engagements" are met.
Mr Hakkar said an "unused capacity" in the Transmed pipeline could be used to "increase the supplies to the European market".
The Transmed pipeline, jointly operated with Italy's ENI, has a capacity of about 32 million cubic metres a year — four times that of the Medgaz pipeline to Spain.
Mr Hakkar said Sonatrach could expand its supplies to countries not served by existing pipelines by using LNG tankers.
He said Europe was the "natural market of choice" for Algerian gas, which accounts for about 11 per cent of Europe's gas imports.
Former Algerian energy minister Abdelmajid Attar, meanwhile, told AFP that "Algeria exports a maximum of 22 billion cubic metres via the Transmed pipeline", leaving a capacity of 10 billion cubic metres.
But Mr Attar said Algeria alone would not be able to "compensate for the decline in Russian gas supply", but it could offer a maximum of two or three million more cubic metres.
Mr Attar, who also previously served as Sonatrach's chief executive, said LNG could also be sent by tankers, and that existing liquefaction plants are only operating at 50 to 60 per cent capacity.
He said that in the medium term, "in four or five months, Algeria can send larger quantities", but it must first develop new reserves of shale gas.
Sonatrach said in January that it would invest $40 billion into oil exploration, production and refinement, as well as gas prospecting and extraction, between 2022 and 2026.