On May 22, Olaf Scholz started a three-day African tour in Senegal—his first since becoming chancellor of Germany – and said his country wanted to help develop natural gas projects off the coast of West Africa.
Germany is Europe’s largest economy but its local gas production only 5% annual demand, making it dependent on imports from Europe, especially Russia, for the rest.
With Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine causing Germany to suspend imports from Russia and suspend the Nord Stream 2 pipeline (which was supposed to bring gas from Russia to Germany), the government of Scholz explores alternatives for gas supply.
A gas field on the Senegalese border has potential
A remarkable project underway in this part of West Africa, which is of interest to Germany, is the Great Ahmeyim Turtle (GTA) gas field owned by the governments of Mauritania and Senegal.
The reserve is being explored by BP, the British company, and they estimate that the field contains up to 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. GTA should produce its first barrels of gas in 2023 after a pandemic-induced delay prevented initial plans from taking off this year.
The BP-led GTA project will cost $4.8 billion. Senegalese President Mack Sall expects him 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 to exchange ideas about this, and after these discussions we will continue to do so very intensively on a technical level”, he saidaccording to the German television channel DW.
Algeria and Nigeria have vast reserves of natural gas
Senegal is behind Nigeria and Algeria in terms of the size of gas reserves in Africa. Only Russia and Norway 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 made it emerge as a future energy provider for the world. Local gas production is also good for improving electricity supply in Senegal.
Sall criticized a plan announced by the United States, Canada and other wealthy nations last year at COP26, the climate summit in Glasgow, to end funding for international fossil fuel projects.
“At a time when several African countries are preparing to exploit their significant gas resources, stopping the financing of the gas sector, under the pretext that gas is a fossil fuel, would have a fatal cost for our emerging economies”, Sal said at a China-Africa summit in November.