Nigerian gas, stake in an energy and geopolitical war in the Maghreb

Regional rivals Morocco and Algeria are engaged in two competing gas pipeline megaprojects linking them to Nigeria, targeting the European market, but in a context where the European Union would like to do without gas by the end of the decade .

The most recent is the Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline (NMGP), approximately 6,000 km long, which should cross thirteen African countries on the Atlantic seaboard to transport billions of cubic meters of Nigerian gas to the Cherifian kingdom. From there, it must be connected to the Maghreb Europe Gas Pipeline (GME). No construction start date has been set: “The pipeline is being planned. We are at the feasibility study stage.Nigerian Oil Minister Timipre Sylva told AFP.

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The idea for the project, aimed at strengthening partnerships with African countries, was launched in 2016 by King Mohammed VI during a visit to Abuja. Its relaunch is explained by the decision of Algiers – the leading African exporter of natural gas – to terminate in 2022 the GME contract supplying Spain with Algerian gas via Morocco, after the rupture of diplomatic relations with Rabat.

These dissensions motivated in particular by the thorny issue of Western Sahara – territory over which Rabat claims its sovereignty while Algiers supports the separatists of the Polisario Front – deprived Morocco of the Algerian gas which it took as a right of passage.

“Mutually profitable gas market”

Beyond that, the NMGP is part of a geopolitical context marked by soaring hydrocarbon prices since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The implementation of this giant gas pipeline, at an estimated cost of 23 billion euros, remains however conditional on “Obtaining the agreement of the countries through which it will pass”recalled the Nigerian Minister of Petroleum.

At the end of 2022, Rabat and Abuja signed seven memorandums of understanding with Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ghana, and another with the Economic Community of Eastern European States. West Africa (ECOWAS). Agreements that “confirm the commitment of the parties to this strategic project”, welcomed the Moroccan Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM). It remains to convince Togo, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia.

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Rabat is counting on the enormous reserves of Nigeria to create “a stable, predictable and mutually profitable gas market” in Africa, Moroccan geopolitical researcher Jamal Machrouh told AFP, also emphasizing his “strategic interest for Europe”.

But questions are emerging when Brussels says it wants to get rid of fossil fuels in the medium term. “We have to count when the gas pipeline is finished. Are we still going to want to use gases, methane? »wondered recently in Rabat the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, stressing that Morocco has a strong potential in clean energies such as hydrogen, wind and solar.

“Vulnerability to jihadist attacks”

The acceleration of cooperation between Rabat and Abuja coincides with the relaunch of the Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline (TSGP) to link Nigeria to Algeria via Niger, at a cost estimated at between 12 billion euros and 18 billion euros .

In July, Algiers, Abuja and Niamey signed a memorandum of understanding to materialize this 4,128 km long gas pipeline, without setting a start-up date.


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Launched in 2009, the project also aims to transport Nigerian gas to the European continent. Once it has arrived in Algeria, it should be shipped there, in particular via the Transmed gas pipeline which already links the Algerian deposits to Italy via Tunisia. “Technical studies are in progress”Algerian Energy Minister Mohamed Arkab said on February 18 in Algiers.

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According to Algerian expert Ahmed Tartar, the three partners are now “looking for donors”. “We can estimate a period of two to three years for the finalization of the project” Who “will meet a significant part of Europe’s future needs”assures AFP Mr. Tartar, whose country is the third supplier of natural gas for Europe.

An optimism tempered by analyst Geoff Porter who underlines the “high vulnerability to jihadist attacks” of the Sahelian zone and the hostility “of local communities if they have the feeling of being exploited for a project from which they derive no benefit”.

Another downside: Europe, which is seeking to free itself from Russian gas, may not accept “a strong dependence on a single supplier”whether Algerian or Moroccan, according to Moroccan researcher Machrouh.

The World with AFP

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