The golden age of natural gas in Africa is upon us
The second day of African Energy Week (AEW), the largest energy event in sub-Saharan Africa, saw a panel under the theme “The Golden Age of Natural Gas in Africa”, sponsored by GE Gas Power. The panel featured strong participation from key players in the natural gas industry, including: The Hon. Cheikh Niane, Permanent Secretary for Energy, Ministry of Petroleum and Energy of the Republic of Senegal; Vladimir Ilyanin, Deputy Managing Director of International Business Development and Strategy, Gazprom EP International BV; Nosizwe Dlengezele, Regional Sales Manager, GE Gas Power; Dr. Bi-Dia-Ayo Ibata, Head of Division, Joint Ventures and Government Relations Department, Société Nationale des Pétroles du Congo (SNPC); and Marinus Niemand, Head of Strategy and Energy Optimization, Sasol.
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to some of the world’s major oil-producing countries, such as Nigeria, Angola, and Equatorial Guinea. Although petroleum remains a mainstay of the global economy, in recent years natural gas has offered some of the most exciting developments and commercial discoveries. These include the massive Grande Tortue Ahmeyim gas field located in the offshore waters between Senegal and Mauritania; the giant Zhor gas field in Egypt; the $ 30 billion Lindi LNG project in Tanzania set to resume in 2022; or Saipem’s $ 20 billion Mozambique LNG project, which is expected to resume next year.
These large projects, combined with the need for sub-Saharan countries to increase access to energy in order to accelerate industrialization and economic growth, have led many natural gas experts to talk about the emerging global energy sector. in a new “golden age” for the development of natural gas in Africa. There is remarkable potential for countries to use natural gas as a catalyst for growth and to help reduce production costs in a wide range of industries. Countries like Senegal and the Republic of Congo are introducing gas master plans, which put in place long-term strategies to maximize the potential of their existing or newly discovered onshore and offshore natural gas resources.
“Our hope is that gas stops being a by-product. We believe the groundwork for a major shift in the natural gas sector in sub-Saharan Africa is underway. Intra-regional cooperation within the sub-Saharan Africa region is absolutely crucial for the gas reserves in Africa to be fully developed, and significant investments are also needed for the new pipeline infrastructure, ”Ilyanin said.
“Our countries need to think about financing our recent gas discoveries as they are crucial for the development of our countries as a reliable and environmentally friendly source of energy,” said the Hon. Niane. “It is necessary to reduce the high price of our electricity and to industrialize our countries. Senegal is working on a Gas Master Plan, which will be very important. Revenues from natural gas will be crucial in helping us finance the energy transition and ensure sustainable development. We cannot develop our countries using only renewable energies. We have to use our gas resources. ”
At AEW 2021, panelists highlighted the role of natural gas as an ideal transitional fuel, as it burns significantly cleaner than traditional fossil fuels like coal and oil, while still being able to provide energy reliably and on a large scale. As a result, there are huge opportunities to replace coal and oil-fired power plants with cleaner power generation infrastructure. A number of multinationals such as GE and Sasol are partnering with African gas producing countries to ensure efficient monetization of national gas resources.
“The bottom line for us has been to focus on decarbonization, exploring what gas can do to help countries industrialize and create a more sustainable energy mix,” said Dlengezele. “Gas is the only substitute for basic electricity, which, in combination with renewable energy sources, allows us to operate a stable electricity grid. We must create an industrial economy around gas that allows local industries to develop and become more efficient, ”he added.
“We are really trying to use natural gas as the main fuel for the energy transition, not only to embrace renewables, but rather for low carbon transport, because gas is a much cleaner fuel. Gas has a huge role to play in the energy transition and in achieving the sustainable development goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda, ”said Dr Ibata. “We use natural gas locally and we are also moving towards exporting gas by 2022. The use of natural gas in Congo helps both to implement the energy transition and to align with OPEC’s position that all sources of energy, including fossil fuels like oil and natural gas, have a critical role to play.
“Gas is a very important added value element for our organization. There are many synergies in the energy mix of upstream production assets in Mozambique and assets in South Africa, where we produce synthetic fuels, wax and ammoniacal methanol in the domestic market, ”added Niemand. “We are also looking at how gas can help us navigate the energy transition, so that gas plays the rightful transition in South Africa. “
In the countries of the continent, the availability of large quantities of natural gas will have a major impact on its ability to serve as a long-term catalyst for development. By using the resource to develop energy systems, while creating synergies among sub-Saharan natural gas producers, robust and profitable electricity and natural gas markets can be established and sustained across the African continent.
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