A mounting gas crisis in Europe caused by Russia’s decision to reduce flows, as it faces Western sanctions for invading Ukraine, has revived several African gas pipeline projects with the potential to make up the difference.
At a meeting held in the Nigerian capital of Abuja on June 20, energy ministers from Algeria, Nigeria and Niger – Algeria’s Mohamed Arkab, Niger’s Mahamane Sani Mahamadou and Nigeria's Timipre Sylva – agreed to accelerate the work on the mooted $13bn Trans-Saharan gas pipeline (TSGP), which could carry 30bn cubic metres per year of gas exports from the three countries to Europe.
With a length of 4,128 km, the pipeline would link Warri in Nigeria to the major Hassi R'Mel gas hub in Algeria, passing through Niger.
“Before now, we should have invented this project, because it is now important more than ever before for us to take our gas to the European markets. A lot of European countries are asking for alternative gas supply from us in Africa,” Nigeria’s Sylva said after the meeting. “And this is because, of course, today gas is now a weapon of war between Ukraine and Russia, and so, more than ever before, our gas is needed. Therefore let us not waste time, let us try and fast-track this project.”
Sylva said that Nigeria has already started construction on a leg of the pipeline that traverses his country from south to north.
“The Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano pipeline is already under construction and this pipeline from the end of Nigeria goes all the way to Algeria through Niger. So we are ready, and we as Africa should show the world that we can come together and build major infrastructure projects like this to signal that Africa has come of age,” he said.
The ministers pledged to realise the TSGP in “the shortest possible time” and to take the first steps through the start of technical studies on its construction. Nigeria’s Sylva said it was “more important than ever” to take gas to the EU without wasting time and to fast-track the project.
The TSGP was first floated in 2002 when Algeria and Nigeria first signed off on a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to go ahead, but little progress was made, due to delays caused by Nigeria’s tardy passing of a new oil sector law, the Petroleum Industry Bill, which was finally passed 19 years later.
Interest in the project has suddenly been revived as Russia is clearly being pushed out of the European gas market, where demand for gas has sky-rocketed. Nigeria is hoping to monetise its vast gas reserves by selling to Europe, which imported 155 bcm of Russian gas in 2021. Nigeria has 7.4 trillion cubic metres of gas in gas reserves.
“Upon completion, the pipeline will carry 30 bcm of gas yearly from Nigeria, Algeria and Niger to European markets via Algeria's strategic Mediterranean coast,” the Declaration of Niamey stated following the finalised agreement during the Economic Communities of West African States Mining and Petroleum Forum in Niamey, Niger, in February. “The pipeline will enable Europe to tap directly into the three countries' significant gas reserves, thus diversifying its supply in the wake of the current energy crisis, while creating critical sources of revenue for African gas markets.”
Reportedly, the parties agreed that the three ministers should meet again no later than the end of July in Algeria to further discuss plans.
Another project underway is the 7,000-km Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline (NMGP), and a contract for the engineering design and environmental studies was signed in May, bna IntelliNews’ sister publication Newsbase.com reported at the time.
One of the most ambitious projects is the Gaz Maghreb-Europe (GME) pipeline that would run through 13 northern African countries and connect with Spain and beyond. Nigerian Energy Minister Sylva is also deeply involved in this project, and speaking to Newsbase in May said that Russia was also interested in investing.
“The Russians were with me in the office last week. They are very desirous to invest in this project and there are lots of other people who are also desirous to invest in the project,” Sylva said.
“This is a pipeline that is going to take our gas through a lot of countries in Africa and also, all the way to the edge of the African continent, where we can have access to the European market as well,” the minister added. Sylva said he hoped the government might begin work in the next year.