After persuading oil majors to help explore Algeria’s vast shale gas reserves, state energy firm Sonatrach has started reaching out to a different kind of partner: mystical Sufi preachers.

Sonatrach CEO Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour and his colleagues have been courting Sunni Muslim Sufi masters from communities in areas near prospective southern gas fields to win over locals worried about possible disruption from exploration work. The state company brings Sufi preachers to meetings in the country’s southern region, where most of Algeria’s energy reserves lie and which is also home to more traditional communities, to explain prospects for jobs and other benefits.

Sonatrach has been increasingly turning to foreign firms, which have long been reluctant to invest in Algeria because of red tape and tough terms, to push up oil and gas output. But it needs to ensure that international companies which sign up do not face protests from local communities, like the demonstrations that forced Sonatrach temporarily to halt shale exploration tests near the southern In Salah gasfield in 2015.

Source: Hellenic Shipping News