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Tunisian Military Ordered To Protect Oil And Gas Facilities As Protests Escalate

The Tunisian military will be protecting the country’s oil, gas, and phosphate production facilities after President Beji Caid Essabsi ordered it to do so on Wednesday.

"It is a serious decision, but it must be applied to protect our resources," the leader said in a speech addressed to the nation. "Our democratic path has become threatened and law must be applied but we will respect freedoms."

The deployment will begin immediately, he added.

A new Reuters reports said that a string of protests around Tunisian natural resource processing facilities caused the government to take the protective measure, which is the first of its kind in the nation’s history. Protests and strikes involving industrial facilities have cost Tunisa billions in revenues in the post-Arab Spring years.

Recently, 1,000 protestors in the Tatouine province have begun targeting Eni’s and OMV’s gas operations in the area, demanding new jobs and a bigger chunk of revenues from the Tunisian natural resource game. Other demonstrations have started in the south in Kebili as well.

Austria-based OMV has already removed 700 non-essential workers from its southern facilities as a precaution. Perenco and Canada’s Serinus Energy have lowered production.

Tunisia recorded a drop in crude oil and natural gas production of 10.1 percent in 2016 compared to the previous year, in line with forecasts made by authorities last summer.

Oil production in Tunisia – clocking in at just 44,000 barrels per day – is miniscule compared to the country’s neighbors, Libya and Algeria. Phosphate is the country’s real commodity strength and the government knows it. Essabsi plans to double production of the mineral, commonly used in fertilizers.

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Tunisia is not a party to the OPEC and non-OPEC crude oil output cuts in which signatories agreed in November to a 1.2 million-barrels per day reduction.

By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

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