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Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline Project Raises Hopes, Doubts  

FILE - Nigeria's Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Timipre Sylva speaks during the Saudi Green Initiative Forum to discuss efforts by the world's top oil exporter to tackle climate change in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 10.23.2021

As Russia continues its war on Ukraine, some African nations have a revived a decades-old, multi-billion-dollar gas project, seeking to provide Europe an alternative to Russian natural gas. Analysts say the initiative has promise but faces many challenges.

If successful, Algeria, Niger and Nigeria could send up to 30 billion cubic meters of gas per year to Europe through the Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline (TSGP).

Nigeria’s petroleum minister, Timipre Sylva, says Europe will fund the project and that authorities are already holding talks with European firms and countries.

Sylva said a committee set up by the countries was already conducting a feasibility study to build a 4,128-kilometer-long gas pipeline from southern Nigeria to Algeria via Niger.

The landmark decision to revive the project followed a two-day joint meeting held in Abuja last week by petroleum authorities from the three African nations.

The committee will meet at the end of July.

Revival of the project was praised by the African Energy Chamber, a group that promotes cross-border cooperation in the continent’s energy industry.

Abuja-based energy expert Emmanuel Afiami says the strategic move could provide a boost to the three African nations.

"It actually shows that Africa is trying as much as possible to position itself to possibly see how well they can help Europe cover the energy demand issues," Afiami said. "Beyond this, this particular project will actually mean a lot for the three African countries involved, the benefits to local economies."

The initiative was initially conceived more than 40 years ago but renewed interest comes amid Russia's war on Ukraine and efforts by Europe to slash Russia'a energy income.

African energy experts like Afiami say that with demand for natural gas rising, the TSGP project could transform Africa's energy future if properly implemented.

However, public finance analyst Isaac Botti says political, which has been a challenge in the past, may stand in the way of progress.

"For me I think the major challenge is the political will of these countries to embark on this huge deal," Botti said. "For example, the pipeline project between Nigeria and Ghana which has also been stalled over time was as a result of political will, not unavailability of resources to do that. Part of the problem is also that we are too reliant on easy money."

In April, European Union delegates met with Nigerian officials in Abuja and held talks about diversifying Europe's sources of energy.

Nigerian authorities last month directed a state-run oil company to implement a deal on a gas pipeline to Europe through Morocco.

Authorities are also planning to transport more gas from southern to northern Nigeria and build a major gas turbine in Abuja.