Africa can help Europe ditch Russian gas | Africa | DW

Russia recently followed through on its threats by cutting off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria. Other countries like Germany or even all the members of the European Union could follow.

The Russian group Gazprom thus announced on April 27 that it had suspended its deliveries to these two EU member countries, assuring that they had not made any payment in rubles.

The European Union refuses to pay for its gas purchases from Russia in rubles and must prepare for a disruption in its supplies, the European Commission warned on May 3 after an emergency meeting of ministers of the Energy of 27 in Brussels.

The war in Ukraine revealed the EU’s dependence on Russia, which globally accounts for 45% of European gas purchases. Since the countries of the European Union are hardly any producers, they imported 90% of their gas needs between 2019 and 2021.

Faced with the invasion of Ukraine and Russian threats, the European Commission presented a plan on March 8 which aims to reduce dependence on Russian gas by two thirds by the end of the year.

What do you mean ? The amount of Russian deliveries was 155 billion cubic meters in 2021. To achieve this, the Commission is planning a package of measures, the most important of which is the increase in imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by 50 billion cubic meters (36 million tons).

The European Union already imports 78 million tonnes of liquefied gas. The problem with this challenge is that the global LNG market is not scalable. It was estimated at 313 million tonnes in 2021 and a large part is captured by Asian countries (China, Japan and South Korea).

Which countries to help Europe?

The United States, the world’s largest exporter of LNG, has already announced that it will increase its deliveries of liquefied natural gas to the European Union to help it reduce its dependence on Russian fossil fuels.

After doubling its deliveries in recent months, the United States, with “international partners”, wants to supply Europe with an additional 15 billion cubic meters (10.9 million tonnes) in 2022.

Another positive point, according to the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, LNG export capacities should increase by 31 million tonnes in 2022.

Few states among the main producers can help the EU to solve its supply problems.

The list of main exporters shows that three countries will not help the European Union to increase its LNG imports: Russia of course, Malaysia and Australia whose remoteness makes transport costs too high.

That leaves the United States and Qatar.

But these two countries will not be enough to deliver the 36 million tonnes planned by the European Commission. Brussels is therefore also turning its eyes to Africa where a certain number of countries could redirect their LNG cargoes to Europe.

This is all the more so since since 2021, with the rise in energy prices, the European Union has become a more interesting market than Asia.

Italy wasted no time. Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani traveled to Luanda and Brazzaville at the end of April to diversify Italian supplies, which are highly dependent on Russian gas.

Other countries, such as Algeria and Nigeria, are also major LNG exporters and could offer an alternative to Europe.

In mid-April, several ambassadors from member countries of the European Union thus paid a visit to Niger’s Minister of Petroleum Resources, Timipre Syiva.

Faced with the expectations of Europeans, he explained that Nigeria is ready to take on the role of alternative gas supplier. But for that, the EU must encourage companies like Shell, Eni and TotalEnergies to increase their investments in Nigeria.

Nigeria and Morocco are in fact looking for funds to finance a gigantic gas pipeline project, 5,600 kilometers long, aimed at bringing Nigerian gas to North Africa and Europe.

The project should not be finished before 2046 but the Nigerian Minister of Petroleum Resources added, with a certain malice, that “the Russians are very keen to invest in this project”.

African countries that could export more LNG to Europe.

African countries that could export more LNG to Europe.

Lack of infrastructure in Europe

The problem is that the main installations for regasifying liquefied natural gas are in Spain and Portugal, far from Germany or the eastern countries which are very dependent on Russian gas.

Stop being dependent on Russian gas “is a more time-consuming process”admitted German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during a visit to Japan on April 28, because the country must build LNG terminals to process liquefied natural gas delivered by ship, he recalled.

As for the gas pipelines that supply Europe from North Africa, their capacities remain limited and diplomatic tensions in the region compromise their reliability.

Three gas pipelines are currently in operation: the Medgaz linking Algeria to Spain, the Transmed transporting Algerian gas to Italy via Tunisia and the Greenstream between Libya and Italy.

A fourth gas pipeline, the Maghreb-Europe, has not been in operation since November 2021: the gas passed through Morocco and Algiers closed it after the rupture of diplomatic relations between the two countries due to the dispute over Western Sahara.

Overall, Algeria has managed to export 34.5 billion cubic meters of gas to Spain and Italy in 2021, but its ability to push volumes is weak, especially since its domestic demand is on the rise.

As for Libya, a country ravaged by war, it is already struggling to deliver 3.2 billion cubic meters to Italy.

Insecurity on the African continent adds to the problems that threaten the reliability of its deliveries.

Indeed, the Global Energy Monitor, in its June 2021 report, points out that one of the most significant changes in 2020 and 2021 has been “the decline in developing (LNG) export infrastructure in Africa, due almost entirely unrest in the Cabo Delgado region of Mozambique.”

North Africa can only partially replace Russian gas.

North Africa can only partially replace Russian gas.

Mozambique’s disappointment

The discovery in 2010 of the largest natural gas reserves in sub-Saharan Africa had given Mozambique the promise of a place among the world’s top ten exporters.

The predominantly Muslim province of Cabo Delgado, in the northeast of the country, saw the birth of three projects: Mozambique LNG, a consortium operated by TotalEnergies, Rovuma LNG led by the American ExxonMobil and Coral-Sul FLNG by the Italian ENI.

Mozambique LNG is the largest project in terms of capacity: 22.9 million tons of LNG per year for an investment of 15 billion dollars.

But at the end of March 2021, an attack by the jihadist group Ansar al-Sunna on the coastal city of Palma called into question the security of the project, so much so that on April 26, 2021, TotalEnergies declared “force majeure” allowing it to suspend the project. project without contractual consequences.

TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyanné said on April 28 that work will not resume in Mozambique until security returns.

During a visit to Mozambique at the end of January, he had set a new objective for 2026 but a return to normal could be envisaged from the beginning of 2023.

The successes encountered against jihadist groups could allow this. Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) sent around 3,000 soldiers in support of the Mozambican army last summer and the South African army considers the insurgency to be “destabilized”, without However, we know its ability to lead new attacks.

On the other hand, the Italian ENI, which has bet on the liquefaction of gas in the open sea, maintains its production target for the second half of 2022 (3.4 million tonnes per year). Indeed, the risks of attacks in the open sea are much lower.

The ExxonMobil project, more expensive (30 billion dollars), is meanwhile at a standstill. The construction of facilities with an annual capacity of 15.2 million tonnes has not started and the American group does not seem to want to commit again until the security situation has improved.

The shutdown of the gas project in Mozambique is a blow to the development of natural gas extraction in Africa.

The shutdown of the gas project in Mozambique is a blow to the development of natural gas extraction in Africa.

Gas and climate goals

Finally, there is another major obstacle to the development of liquefied natural gas exports in Africa: global warming.

Since gas is only considered as a temporary means of solving the environmental problem, can we under these conditions make heavy investments if they are called into question in twenty years?

Admittedly, the combustion of gas causes two times less carbon dioxide emissions than coal. But, as the Global Energy Monitor reminds us, the process of extracting and transporting the gas is characterized by leaks of methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas.

However, the energy sector is responsible for three quarters of greenhouse gas emissions.

In its report on the goal of “net zero emissions” by 2050, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates quite abruptly that “between 2020 and 2050, trade in liquefied natural gas will have to be reduced by 60 % and that of gas transported by gas pipelines by 65%”.

If the IEA admits that the trade in liquefied natural gas will increase in 2020 and 2025, on the other hand its conclusions are in contradiction with those of the large groups of the energy sector which estimate that the world trade in LNG will reach 700 million tons in 2040 while the IEA mentions… 116 million tons.

Conflicting forecasts between industry and climate goals.

Conflicting forecasts between industry and climate goals.