Germany is looking to west Africa to help solve its gas woes

Scholz goes gas shopping in Senegal
Scholz goes gas shopping in Senegal
Image: Reuters/Ngouda Dione
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On May 22, Olaf Scholz started a three-day tour of Africa in Senegalhis first since becoming the chancellor of Germany—and said his country wants to help develop natural gas projects off the coast of west Africa.

Germany is Europe’s largest economy but its local gas production caters to only 5% of annual demand, making it dependent on imports from Europe, especially Russia, for the rest.

With Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine causing Germany to halt imports from Russia and suspend the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline (which was supposed to take gas from Russia to Germany), Scholz’s government is exploring alternatives for gas supply.

Gas field on Senegal’s border has potential

One standout ongoing project in this part of west Africa, that is of interest to Germany, is the Greater Tortue Ahmeyim (GTA) gas field owned by the governments of Mauritania, and Senegal.

The reserve is being explored by BP, the British company, and they estimate the field holds up to 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. GTA is expected to produce its first barrels of gas in 2023 after a pandemic-induced delay prevented initial plans to take off this year.

The BP-led GTA project will cost $4.8 billion. Senegal’s president Mack Sall expects it to increase his country’s liquefied natural gas production to 2.5 million metric tons a year when it opens next year. Scholz, the German Chancellor, sees an opportunity for Germany to help develop the project.

“We have started exchanging ideas about this, and following these talks we will continue to do so very intensively at the technical level,” he said, according to German news broadcaster DW.

Algeria, and Nigeria have extensive natural gas reserves

Senegal is behind Nigeria and Algeria in terms of the size of gas reserves in Africa. Only Russia, and Norway have supplied more gas to the EU than Algeria in the past two years.

But the discovery of gas deposits of up to 40 trillion cubic feet in Senegal between 2014 and 2017 has seen it emerge as a future energy supplier to the world. Local gas production is also good for improving power supply in Senegal.

Sall criticized a plan announced by the US, Canada and other wealthy nations last year at COP26, the climate summit in Glasgow, to end the financing of international fossil fuel projects.

“At a time when several African countries are preparing to exploit their significant gas resources, the end of funding for the gas sector, under the pretext that gas is a fossil energy, would bear a fatal cost to our emerging economies,” Sall said at a China-Africa summit in November.