African LNG can help wean Europe off Russian gas – IEA says

Drilling rig in Africa
Source: DollarPhotoClub

According to International Energy Agency (IEA), Sub-Saharan countries are a viable alternative to Russia as a source of natural gas for Europe – portal EuroActiv reports.

Since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis earlier this year, the drive to wean Europe off Russian gas has prompted it to look for alternative sources. The most prominent and written-about alternative is LNG imports from the booming American shale plays. But this, IEA argues, is not the only option.

Dominique Ristori, the European Commission’s senior civil servant in charge of energy policy, said on Wednesday (29 October) that the situation in Ukraine had given a push to a new level of cooperation between the EU and Africa.

Sub-Saharan gas production increased from just 7 bcm in 1990 to 58 bcm in 2012, according to the IEA’s Africa Energy Outlook, presented yesterday (29 October) in Brussels.

Driven principally by Mozambique, Nigeria, Angola and Tanzania, Sub-Saharan Africa will produce about 175 billion cubic metres per year (bcm/y) of natural gas by 2040.

The United States, powered by the shale gas boom, will produce more, with 240 bcm. Russia will produce about 130 bcm, according to research by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

“Investment in liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects could significantly enhance the diversification of gas imports to Europe,” said International Energy Agency chief economist Dr Fatih Birol.

Ristori said that Africa has lots of undeveloped energy resources which could be developed given the EU’s involvement. The EU could act as a buyer for African LNG but also be involved in exploration. In the last five years almost 30% of global oil discoveries were in Sub-Saharan Africa. Every third barrel of oil in the world was discovered in Sub-Saharan Africa, he said, and this was not even taking into consideration the renewables.

“There is no other continent in the world where you have 320 days of very strong, bright sunshine,” he pointed out.

Despite being a rich energy source, Africa has the highest proportion of people living without electricity in the world. The continent is also plagued by political instability. Luigi Marras, the director general of global issues at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation, commented on the issue saying: “We have to look at areas of instability, where people are forced to flee their countries. We have to go there to fill vacuums that could be filled by radicals and terrorists.”

He believes that Africa could become a prospective partner for business and trade but in order for this to happen the EU needs to have a proper energy policy in place; one that will bring electricity to the African people.

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