By Habeeb Adamu.
Forty years after the idea was first suggested, Algeria, Niger and Nigeria have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to build a mega gas-transport project linking the three countries with a pipeline spanning more than 4,000 km (2,500 miles).
The MoU was signed in Algeria on Thursday by Algerian Minister of Energy and Mines Mohamed Arkab, Nigerian Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Timipre Sylva, and Niger’s Minister of Energy and Renewable Energies Mahamane Sani Mahamadou.
The three countries are looking to cash in as the European Union mulls moving away from reliance on Russian energy and increasingly turns to Africa for natural gas imports.
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Africa is endowed with vast natural gas reserves but lacks the infrastructure to export it.
The Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline, estimated to cost $13 billion (€12.75 billion), is intended to begin in Warri, Nigeria, and end in Hassi R’Mel, Algeria, where it will link to existing pipelines that lead to Europe.
When completed, it could transport up to 30 billion cubic metres (1 trillion cubic feet) of gas annually from Nigeria, in West Africa, northward to Niger and then on to Algeria. From there, it could be pumped through the undersea Trans-Mediterranean Pipeline to Europe or loaded onto Liquefied Natural Gas tankers for export.
The idea of the project was first proposed over 40 years ago, but the security situation in the Sahel region and tensions between the governments in Algiers and Niamey partly delayed it. Discussions to construct the pipeline restarted in 2021 when Algeria and Niger reopened their border.
The new momentum comes at a strategic time when the European Union is looking to wean itself off Russian gas and seek alternative sources following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Last week, EU member states agreed to reduce gas consumption as concerns grew that Russia might cut off already decreasing deliveries.
Matthew Baldwin, deputy director general of the European Commission’s energy department, said recently on a visit to Nigeria that the EU was seeking additional gas supplies from Africa’s largest oil producer as the bloc prepares for potential Russian supply cuts.
Baldwin said the EU imports 14 percent of its total LNG supplies from Nigeria and there was potential to more than double that figure.
“(The pipeline) should allow Europe to diversify its sources of natural gas supply but also allow several African states to access this high value energy source,” Niger’s oil ministry said in a statement on Wednesday following a two-day meeting in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.