Exploration for oil began in 1956, following the discovery of deposits in Algeria. In 1964, oil was discovered near the southern Algerian border by the Italian National Hydrocarbon Agency; subsequent discoveries have been made on the continental shelf east of Sfax, in the Gulf of Gabes, and at other sites. Petroleum reserves were estimated at more than 300 million barrels in early 2003. Production in the first ten months of 2002 was 78,000 barrels per day. Despite decreasing production, the El-Borma field is still Tunisia's largest oil production site and is operated by the Italian corporation Azienda Generali Italiana Petroli (Agip). The offshore Ashtart field contributes more than 20% to the country's total crude oil production. The Tunisian government retains approximately 50% control of the oil industry.
Natural gas production in 2000 was 1.9 billion cu m. Proven reserves were 79.3 billion cu m at the beginning of 2002. The largest producing area for natural gas is offshore, north of Djerba Island, with a pipeline to Sfax. Four branch pipelines connect with the Italian-Algerian trans-Mediterranean natural gas pipeline (inaugurated in 1983), supplying imported Algerian gas for Tunisian industries. In 2001 Tunisia and Libya signed an agreement to construct a natural gas pipeline to link their two countries.
Electrical service in Tunisia was nationalized in 1958; since 1962, the government-owned Tunisian Electric and Gas Co. has controlled all power concerns. Installed capacity was 2,016 MW in 2001. Electricity production in 2000 was 10.3 billion kWh, with 99% of the total supplied by conventional thermal plants. Consumption of electricity in 2000 was 9.6 billion kWh. In 1999 more than 94% of Tunisian households had access to electrical power.