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Could Europe Import African Gas Instead of Russian?

Natural gas Africa
As it turned out, the Russia-Ukraine war threw the oil and gas industry into chaos. With no final resolution on the horizon, the oil price is more unpredictable than ever. However, this war is forcing the European Union to look for non-Russian oil to meet its energy needs.

Furthermore, Europe imports 40% of its natural gas and 25% of its oil from Russia. Seemingly, Russia is funding its war in Ukraine by using its oil and gas export revenues. That’s why Europe is desperate to minimize its dependence on Russian-exported energy.

With all its untapped reserves, Africa stands as a potential alternative. It has the potential to become a dominant player in the global oil and gas marketplace. Countries like Nigeria, Algeria, Gabon, Angola, and Senegal have trillions of cubic feet of natural gas reserves. But will that be enough?

Pipeline Russia Europe
Oil prices have never been higher since 2008, and they’ll get higher if Europe suddenly cuts its dependence on Russian energy. So far, the world responded against Russia with economic and financial sanctions, but banning oil and gas exports is much more sensitive than economic sanctions.

The U.S. stopped importing Russian energy to hurt the Russian economy. Shell also announced its withdrawal from the Russian oil and gas market. It’s stopping buying Russian hydrocarbons, shutting service stations in Russia, and ending its involvement in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. Still, it’s not as easy for European countries to follow suit.

For example, Germany might have halted progress on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. On the other side, Russia threatened to stop energy exports to Germany through Nord Stream 1, which depends on Russia for much of its energy needs.

Italy receives 45% out of its 90% natural gas imports from Russia. However, Italy is exploring its options with African nations like the Republic of the Congo to launch a natural gas project by 2023. Poland imports 67% of its oil from Russia, while Ireland gets only 5%. In other words, some European nations can’t stop importing energy from Russia overnight. So, what’s the plan?

The European Commission proposed the REPowerEU plan, which consists of two parts. In the short term, the EU plans to cut dependence on Russian gas by two-thirds by the end of the year. It entails importing energy from other sources than Russia. In the long term, it’ll focus on developing renewable energy sources to cut dependence completely by 2030.

Despite the dire need, it’s not easy for Europe to break free from Russian energy dominance.

Challenges in Africa

Europe is divided between taking baby steps away from Russian gas and rationing its energy imports while waiting for a miracle.

The situation isn’t any better in Africa. Most of Africa’s nations have to invest more in exploring untapped fields if they were to meet domestic demands, let alone export energy to Europe.

Not only that.

African gas is already flowing to Europe through Algeria and Libya. Algeria is pumping natural gas to Spain through Morocco. The EU is already extending pipelines to France and the rest of Europe. Libya is already exporting 8% of Italy’s natural gas needs. Still, Algerian and Libyan gas could hardly make up for Russian gas.

Statistica Europe Alternatives to Russian Gas
Going deeper, most of the African energy reserves lies in Sub Saharan countries. Nigeria has the lion’s share of the continent’s reserves along with Angola. Furthermore, Senegal also is working on exploring and exploiting vast offshore fields.

So, Africa is sitting on huge untapped natural gas fields that could serve domestic and international needs. The biggest challenge is streaming gas from Nigeria to Algeria through Niger, especially when the pipelines must go through different territories with lots of conflicts.

The problematic Trans-Saharan pipeline proposal tries to tackle these issues. It may take more than a few years to work, but African gas could be pumped into Europe in a way that makes a difference. Alternatively, Africa may also export other energy products that don’t need pipelines for transportation like liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Apart from infrastructure difficulties, African nations need to work out internal conflicts to reach self-sufficiency, let alone play an effective role in the world’s energy security. You can’t help anyone if you don’t help yourself first.

What Are the Odds?

Russia is the third-largest exporter of oil and gas in the world. Europe can’t sever energy ties that go back for decades. Russian pipelines are too deep for that to happen overnight. Also, it looks like Russia will stop at nothing to achieve its objectives in Ukraine.

If Europe went ahead and cuts energy ties with Russia, oil prices will skyrocket. The whole world will feel it, not only in European nations. So, it goes back to square one, diplomacy. At this point, diplomacy has failed to resolve. Still, it shouldn’t be abandoned completely.

Global Witness ukraine Mike Davis
To make matters worse, nations sit at the table when there are some bargaining chips. Energy seems to be the strongest trick in Russia’s bag, leaving Europe no other way than to look for alternatives.

It won’t be easy for Africa to replace Russia in Europe, at least, in a few years. Furthermore, oil-rich Arabian countries such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are in long-term contracts with no foreseeable plans to negotiate with Europe.

How this will play out? Only time can tell.

The Russia-Ukraine war might be the catalyst the world needs to switch to renewable energy.

Europe relies heavily on Russian oil, and Russian energy exports play a significant role in funding the war. Africa could balance the situation by supplying the world with the much-needed energy, but infrastructure problems are another complex obstacle to overcome. So, it’s a catch-22.

Wind and solar power may take too long to replace fossil fuels, but clean energy is the world’s best bet against an impending climate crisis. It goes beyond wars and competition for natural resources, it has to do with the continuity of the human race.

31, Mar, 2022