CAN AFRICAN GAZ REPLACE RUSSIAN SUPPLIES TO EUROPE?

CAN AFRICAN GAZ REPLACE RUSSIAN SUPPLIES TO EUROPE?

N Melo
by N Melo
April 9, 2022 0

CAN AFRICAN GAZ REPLACE RUSSIAN SUPPLIES TO EUROPE?

A lack of infrastructure, not capacity, could hurt the continent’s plan to supply gas to Europe in Russia’s stead.

Lagos, Nigeria – On February 22, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced during a news conference that the European superpower was halting approval of Russia-owned Nord Stream 2 after President Vladimir Putin officially sent troops into eastern Ukraine.

Nord Stream 2, an $11bn gas pipeline project owned by Moscow-backed energy company Gazprom, runs from western Siberia to Germany. The project was built to ensure a sustainable energy distribution across the European Union, especially as gas prices reached record highs in Europe – which gets more than a third of its natural gas from Russia.

As the conflict continues in Ukraine, European gas prices have soared and there is the likelihood that Moscow could shut off supplies of gas, widely considered part of Putin’s leverage against the West in his obsession with Ukraine.

Before that, European countries will be pulling the stops to find contingency supply networks in the coming weeks. In fact, sources say the United States is already in talks with Qatar over supplying gas to the EU as a crucial substitute for Russia.

However, during a forum of gas exporting countries held last week in Qatar, the bloc said it would be unable to provide a considerable amount of replacement gas to Europe in the event of sanctions against Russia. They stressed the need for significant investment in gas infrastructure, as well as long-term contracts, to guarantee a large supply to Europe.

Filling the gap
This has led to an emerging debate about whether African countries, which have some of the world’s deepest gas reserves, can step in to fill the gap – a demand of 150-190 billion cubic metres annually that Russia has usually supplied to Europe.

Recently, Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan said the Russian invasion of Ukraine could prove to be an opportunity for gas sales as the East African country makes efforts to secure a new energy market outside Africa. “Whether Africa or Europe or America, we are looking for markets,” said Hassan. “And fortunately, we are working with companies from Europe.”

Tanzania, which has the sixth-largest gas reserves in Africa – an estimated 57 trillion cubic feet (1.6 billion cubic metres) of gas reserves – says it has been working with Shell to utilise its vast offshore gas resources and export to Europe and elsewhere.

Africa’s largest gas producer has similar plans too. Timipre Sylva, Nigeria’s junior petroleum minister, told the press at the gas exporting countries’ forum in Doha, “We want to build a pipeline, a trans-Sahara pipeline, that is going to take our gas to Algeria, then to Europe.”

Nigeria’s comments are buoyed by the recent signing of an MoU with Algeria and the Niger Republic and the ongoing construction of the Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline, a 614km (381.5 miles) long natural gas pipeline beginning in northern Nigeria.

There is no official word on when the pipeline, first mooted in the 1970s, will be completed but it is slated to run through northern Nigeria into Niger and Algeria, connecting to Europe eventually.

Still there are concerns about whether African countries can become a proper stopgap solution for natural gas as Europe tackles Russia’s military onslaught against one of its own – or long-term suppliers.

CAN AFRICAN GAZ REPLACE RUSSIAN SUPPLIES TO EUROPE?
CAN AFRICAN GAZ REPLACE RUSSIAN SUPPLIES TO EUROPE?

Lack of infrastructure
Experts say a historic lack of investment in gas infrastructure has hampered the energy industry in sub-Saharan Africa, unlike in Northern Africa.

Security of supply
There are also other existential issues that experts say African countries have to fix first to be a ready alternative for Europe in situations of urgency.

Mozambique holds roughly 100 trillion cubic feet (2.8 trillion cubic metres) of proven natural gas reserves, accounting for approximately 1 percent of the world’s total reserves. But an ongoing armed uprising in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, a gas-rich area that borders Tanzania, has hampered activity on a planned $50bn project.

N Melo
NM
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