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Europe Turns to Africa to Replace Russia Gas

FILE - Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune signing a gas agreement in Rome, May 26, 2022.

Experts say European leaders are turning to Africa for more natural gas in a bid to replace their reliance on Russian energy, amid heightening tensions between President Vladimir Putin’s administration and Europe over the war in Ukraine.

Experts observing a new liquefied natural gas project on Africa’s west coast, say the project is 80 percent complete but is already attracting the attention of Polish and German leaders who are looking to wean their nations off Russian energy.

Officials overseeing Africa’s new gas project say the initial field is located near the coastlines of Senegal and Mauritania and is expected to contain approximately 425 billion cubic meters of gas, five times more than the gas used in Germany in 2019.

Gordon Birell, an executive of British multinational oil and gas company, B.P who are co-developers on the project says development is not expected to start until the end of 2023, but “could not be more timely” as Europe seeks to reduce its reliance on Russia.

“Current world events are demonstrating the vital role that liquid gas can play in underpinning the energy security of nations and regions,” said Birell.

Experts say Africa’s natural gas reserves are vast and north African nations such as Algeria already have pipelines with links to Europe, however the continent faces infrastructure and security challenges that prevent the continent from scaling up energy exports.

Mahfound Kaoubi, an economics professor and specialist on energy issues at the University of Algiers says Algeria and Egypt are major gas suppliers in Africa, but both nations currently cannot offset Russia’s gas supply in Europe.

“Russia has an annual production of 270 billion cubic meters, that is huge,” said Kaoubi, adding, “Algeria is 120 billion cubic meters, of which 70.50 percent is intended for consumption on the internal market.”

The President of Senegal and the Chairperson of the African Union, Macky Sall says it is important for Africa to cash in on the gas projects but urges the continent to stay cognizant that an estimated 600 million Africans lack access to electricity.

“It is legitimate, fair and equitable that Africa, the continent that pollutes the least and lags furthest behind in the industrial process should exploit its available resources to provide basic energy,” said Sall as he addressed the U.N. General Assembly last month.

“We must improve the competitiveness of its (Africa) economy and achieve universal access to electricity,” added Sall.