Algeria's prime minister says that plans to drill the country's abundant shale gas reserves have been scrapped.

Wednesday's statement comes in the wake of a string of protests in the southern desert cities over environmental concerns near where drilling had already begun.

Despite high profile announcements in December that drilling had been authorized, Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said there had never been any plans to commercially exploit the gas.

Initial drilling near the town of In Salah was just "experimental" he said during a television interview.

He said Algeria had sufficient conventional hydrocarbon resources for its energy needs and the country did not yet possess the technology to exploit its shale gas.

Algeria has the third largest estimated shale gas reserves in the world.