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Europe Abandons Russia’s Energy -Can Africa Become Reliable Alternative Supplier?

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With the never-ending Russia-Ukraine crisis, energy-stricken Europe now turns to Africa. Notwithstanding the distance, European Union members have set their eyes on African oil and gas producing countries that could be potential alternative suppliers. EU is heavily dependent on Russian energy. Russia is the largest supplier of gas to Europe. Russia, with the largest gas reserve in the world produces about 17% of global natural gas and supplies about 30-40% of the gas consumed in Europe through a network of pipelines to Europe.

During the first Russia-Africa summit, a number of African countries were soliciting Russia’s assistance in exploring their oil and gas reserves in Africa. Some agreements were signed with Russian companies such as Bashneft, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil, Rosneft et cetera. Long before that start of the February 24 “special military operations” in Ukraine, many African leaders illogically failed to understand that Russia has always claimed global leading position in oil and gas supply. Experts have said that Africa’s supply would affect the aggregate global supply and consequently its prices.

Moreover, the first Russia-Africa summit results are highly credible. Summit reports point to so many protocols and agreements with Africa. Russian companies, for their part, have a wealth of experience leading exploratory work and are interested in working on the African continent. With the geo-political changes and its logical implications, the investment in the energy sector must now come from Europe.

As a direct result of the “special military operation” launched since February 24, Russia has come under a raft of unprecedented stringent sanctions imposed by the United States and Canada, European Union, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and a host of other countries.

This has to be analysed and its geopolitical and business implications. The fact is that bilateral business relations and geopolitical impact are changing, some degree. The crisis has absolutely posed challenges, but at the same time opened possibilities and prospects for establishing new partnership cooperation between state institutions as well as between foreign countries and Africa.

In the latest research developments, EU members are now rapidly moving in the African direction, ultimately aiming at cutting the dependency due to sharp political and economic differences that have emerged connected to Ukraine. Generally, EU is closely coordinating with Algeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Egypt, Nigeria and Mozambique.

There has been a long history of Soviet and Russian specialists participating in and supporting the systemic geological study of a number of countries in the African continent. Their work on natural resource bases has done a great deal to aid mineral extraction. These countries now have the opportunity to leverage modern means of geological research and exploration, and in doing so, strike new deals with Europe. Russia is energy self-sufficient, it is Europe rather needs imports and that offers revenue for African producers, experts have argued.

After comprehensive studies, Dr Elisée Byelongo Isheloke, Associate Professor at ISP Ba, Rector at Université Espoir du Congo (UEC) and Researcher and Consultant in South Africa, argues in an emailed message: “it will be hard for Russia to invest in oil and gas in in Africa in order to export it to Europe. The war in Ukraine is affecting Russian business in a negative way and European countries are many to opt for sanctions against Russia. In practical sense, the emphasis should be on strengthening cooperation in the energy sector between Africa and Europe.”

Europe and America need to stop curling conflict by their inflammatory declarations and both the western countries and Russia as well as Ukraine should refrain from any irresponsible statements. Human right abuses must be discontinued, and law must take its course especially where abuse on civilians has been publicly reported. In time of war, it is impossible to talk about meaningful investment, argues Professor Byelongo Isheloke.

Europe to leverage west and North Africa’s oil and gas resources to meet demand, said NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the Johannesburg-based African Energy Chamber, assuring that “with direct involvement from a combination of private and public sector partners, Africa can produce a significant share of the capacity needed by Europe.”

He further stressed the need for regulatory reforms and production improvement in the energy producing African countries. In order to produce and supply effectively, there is the need to build more infrastructure to process its energy. Despite pitfalls and challenges, African leaders have to prioritize efforts to improve exploration, production, infrastructure development and the energy portfolio. Africa’s energy resources remain untapped, and there are huge reserves to meet local demand and to increase exports.

As the infographic by research company Statista shows, the continent’s largest natural gas exporters by far are Algeria and Nigeria, each with between 35,000 and 40,000 million cubic meters shipped abroad in 2020 (ranked 7th and 8th globally).

Last year, these countries were the only two African suppliers of gas to the European Union, accounting for 17 and 4 percent of the EU’s natural gas imports, respectively. The other major players in the region are Egypt, Libya, Equatorial Guinea, and Angola. While countries in sub-Saharan Africa have gas reserves, they have not had the interest from abroad and investment needed for the industry to open up access to Europe, according to Al Jazeera.

Three pipelines currently bring natural gas from Africa to Europe; the Transmed, which allows the export from Algeria to Italy (via Tunisia), the Medgaz, which connects Algeria to Spain under the sea, as well as the Greenstream, more modest in capacity, which connects Libya to Sicily. Due to diplomatic tensions with Morocco, Algeria closed the Maghreb-Europe (GME) pipeline, which passes through its neighbour’s territory, last October. From 2027, the NIGAL pipeline is expected to transport natural gas from Nigeria (which exports mainly by sea), but construction of this pipeline has not yet begun.

Our own research shows that Angola is Africa’s second biggest oil producer after Nigeria. Nigeria is the 10th largest gas reserve country in the world. For Nigeria to take gas to Europe, it would have to build a network of pipelines across the Trans-Saharan Region from Algeria and Morocco. This network of pipelines would have to run through the Northern-most part of Nigeria and connect with Niger. Angola has 1.7 billion tonnes of proven oil reserves and a resource portfolio of up to 3.5 billion tonnes, with liquid hydrocarbons predominating. Angola mainly develops fields under production-sharing agreements; Sonangol has a stake in the majority of them.

Media reports have said that Italy and a number of other EU members scramble to break away from Russian gas over the Ukraine war. In April, many of them with high exploring ambitions turn to Africa. Angola and Italy have already signed a declaration of intent to develop new natural gas ventures and to increase exports to Italy, said a statement from the Italian Foreign Ministry.

“We have reached another important agreement with Angola to increase gas supplies. Italy’s commitment to differentiate energy supply sources is confirmed,” Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said in the statement at the end of a two-and-half-hour long visit to Luanda.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi wants to add Angola and the Congo Republic to a portfolio of suppliers to substitute Russia, which provides about 45 percent of Italian gas.

“We do not want to depend on Russian gas any longer, because economic dependence must not become political subjection. Diversification is possible and can be implemented in a relatively short amount of time — quicker than we imagined just a month ago,” he said in an interview with the Corriere della Sera daily published this April.

The deal was described as “an important agreement that gives impetus to the partnership between Italy and Angola in the fields of renewables, biofuels, LNG and training in technology and environment.”

The Italy delegation headed to neighbouring Brazzaville, the Republic of Congo, to meet President Denis Sassou Nguesso. A similar declaration signed in the Republic of Congo. It provides for the acceleration and increase of gas production in Congo, primarily through the development of a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project with start-up expected in 2023 and a capacity of over 3 million tons / year (over 4.5 billion cubic meters / year) once fully operational. LNG exports will allow to valorize the production of gas that exceeds Congo’s internal market needs, and exports to Europe.

Italy’s ENI has been the second largest oil operator in the Congo for nearly 50 years. It has finalized its latest deals to secure fresh gas supplies from the Congo and Angola, a move directly aims at reducing energy reliance on Russia. Italy and Angola signed a declaration of intent to develop “new” natural gas ventures and increase exports to Italy, according to a statement from the Italian Foreign Ministry.

The foray follows the signing of agreements with Algeria and Egypt in recent weeks. Algeria is currently Italy’s second-largest supplier, providing around 30 percent of its consumption. ENI said the deal with Algeria’s Sonatrach would boost deliveries of gas through the Transmed undersea pipeline by “up to nine billion cubic meters per year” by 2023-24. Transmed only had spare pipeline capacity of 7.8 billion cubic meters per year in 2021 — though it has said it is ready to expand. Italy has also been in talks with Azerbaijan over the expansion of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP).

Our research confirms that with the European Union banning crude oil imports from Russia by increasing trade with other non-Russian economies and the Russian government promising to cut gas supplies if sanctions from western countries continue, potential supply disruptions still anticipated. Nigeria, with over 37 billion barrels of crude oil reserves, has the potential to improve its energy exports to Europe and fill in crude oil and natural gas shortages.

Majors including ExxonMobil, Shell and TotalEnergies have been top producers of oil and gas in Africa. Quite recently, TotalEnergies plans to invest $20 billion in Mozambique, and has similar agreements with neighbouring Rwanda.

Many more experts have scholarly written about the implications of Russia-Ukraine crisis, and what that means especially for Africa. For example, Research Fellow Danielle Resnick from the Brookings wrote that the crisis casts a long shadow across Africa. Despite the geographical distance, there are implications for pan-African solidarity and adherence to multilateralism increasingly uncertain.

She further stressed that a few countries are sensing long-term growth opportunities from the crisis. Specifically, Africa’s natural gas could reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian energy. The African countries mentioned earlier in this article with dreams of re-outlining serious business on the global landscape, Tanzania has revamped negotiations with energy companies in the hopes of attracting $30 billion in foreign investment to revive construction of offshore liquified natural gas projects in 2023.

From Nigeria to Niger to Algeria, the Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline has specific importance as it can help to increase exports of natural gas to European markets. On February 16, the three countries signed an agreement to develop the pipeline, estimated to cost $13 billion. Europe is likely to be a key financer, bolstered by the EU’s controversial decision in early February to label investments in natural gas as green energy.

Now there are a few key questions: Can Africa really become the preferred gas and oil supplier to Europe? Will Russia invest in exploring and producing Africa’s oil and gas? Do African leaders understand that Russia wants to be the global leader and helping them explore oil and gas is illogical?

As European Union has already indicated during the last EU-AU summit, it looks at Africa from different perspectives, and more importantly pushing for their economic footprints on the continent. Fresh from that EU-AU summit, there are agreements on several investment projects.

Our research shows that EU is committing approx. €300 billion ($340 billion) for financing new investment initiatives — similar to China’s Belt and Road initiative — an investment program the bloc claims would create links, not dependencies. EU and SADC, for instance, have been worrying on facilitating and coordinating implementation of the regional agenda in Southern Africa.

Ms. Josefa Sacko, AUC Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment (ARBE), and Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of AUDA-NEPAD, have suggested that African countries must improve their oil and gas production and exploration capability to fill any gaps resulting from supply chain disruptions among the major global producers.

In a joint opinion article believe that African countries that produce fuel and gas such as Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, and Tanzania should explore boosting production and filling the gas and oil gap within the continent and beyond to alleviate fuel price shocks.

“In addition, African governments should invest in or attract greater international investment in oil and gas exploration, particularly in countries where subterranean oil reserves are believed to exist but have yet to be explored,” both experts opined, further reminded that while the conflict severely impact on the economy, it opens the doors for some kind of strategic transformations in Africa.

As Research Fellow Danielle Resnick from the Brookings explicitly pointed out there would be tensions between the United States together Europe on one side and Russia, on the other, over Ukraine. Nevertheless, Africa leaders have to analyse this within the geopolitical context, take into account various scenarios for the near future.

The proximity of the European market gives especially Maghreb, the North African countries strategic significance to become potential gas suppliers. She cited Algeria, as the world’s sixth-largest gas exporter and the continent’s largest gas producer. It has already stated its intention to double exploration and production in the next five years, according to the International Energy Agency.

Algeria increased its export volumes to Europe from €40 billion in 2020 to €53 billion in 2021, and it is expected to export €46 billion or more in 2022, as demand in Europe is expected to continue to rise.

The time has arrived. African countries, can capitalize on current trends to attract much-needed investment in order to develop the infrastructure necessary to accelerate production for regional consumption and exportation while also reducing costs. According to Abdur-Rasheed Tunde Omidiya, President of the African Economic Commission, “the time to act on the Trans-African Gas plan is now.”

African Development Bank (AfDB) President Akinwumi Adesina said in an interview with Reuters that a huge opportunity are emerging for Africa due the Russia-Ukraine crisis. African Development Bank (AfDB) is aiming to raise $1bn to rapidly ramp up agricultural production in Africa and stave off a potential food crisis brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

While Adesina decried the war’s impact on Ukraine and its people, he acknowledged that the geopolitical shifts has sparked new roles for Africa. “The biggest challenge Europe has is securing its energy supply. Europe needs to look, and it is looking, for alternative supplies of gas. Africa can be that place. Africa boasts a host of major oil and gas producers, including Algeria, Nigeria and Angola.

And new offshore gas discoveries – the viability of which had been questioned due to the global shift to renewables – could now become critical to Europe’s energy security as it weans itself off Russian supplies. France’s TotalEnergies, along with US firm Exxon Mobil and Portugal’s Galp are currently developing projects to exploit Mozambique’s estimated 100 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves and make it a major liquefied natural gas player.

Europe can look to Africa as preferred energy supplier. On the other hand, Africa is ready to welcome investors currently pulling out of Russia, according to Adesina, and added: “There are a lot of investors that are going to be diversifying out of Russia, of course … That’s a real opportunity, I think, for Africa at this point in time.”

Nearly our research results show positive signs and several interviews with experts especially inside Africa, we can conclude that Russia-Ukraine crisis has brought into its fold good opportunities. Understandably, Russia is energy self-sufficient, it does not need to import energy from Africa, it can only act as a fortified gatekeeper so that Africa’s energy production do not enter the global market. Popular opinion is that African producers can take advantage to attract investments required to build infrastructure that would enable them to expand exploration, production and exportation to meet the anticipated increase in demand in Europe.

MD Africa Editor Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

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Mozambique’s Gas Among the Alternatives for European Union

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Mozambique is increasingly stepping up efforts in the production of liquefied natural gas and consequently become one of the suitable reliable suppliers to Europe. While it might not replace Russia which cuts its export of gas as a reciprocal action against European Union members, Mozambique seeks ultimately to earn some revenue from its natural resources.

Mozambique’s state-owned National Hydrocarbons Company (ENH) has acknowledged the chances of helping to address growing gas needs in Europe, due to uncertainty over Russian supplies following the invasion of the former Soviet republic of Ukraine.

“With the situation of the war in Ukraine, the European market has increased demand for gas. One of the ways to speed up our gas to reach the markets is to use a second floating platform similar to the one that is already here in Mozambique,” said ENH’s Executive Commercial Director, Pascoal Mocumbi Júnior, quoted by Mozambique’s Information Agency (AIM).

Mocumbi Júnior explained that a second floating liquefied natural gas production platform would join an identical infrastructure that already exists in Mozambican waters, if the country were to be part of the solution to the energy deficit caused by the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

The construction time for a possible second floating unit would be three years, two years less than the time it took to build the unit that has already started loading hydrocarbons, as a way to gain time and speed up gas production.

“With the amount of gas existing in Mozambique, automatically positions itself as an alternative to supply the need that currently exists and the faster the country can get its gas on the market, the greater the possibility of taking advantage of the current crisis caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict,” he stressed.

Late July, the outgoing European Union (EU) Ambassador to Mozambique argued that natural gas from Cabo Delgado was among the alternatives in Europess plan to diversify energy sources in the face of constraints caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Mozambique’s gas, with the presence of large European multinational companies, now has an even more important and strategic value,” Sánchez-Benedito Gaspar said in an interview with Lusa, Mozambican News Agency, in Maputo.

According to the diplomat, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Europe came to the conclusion that “it cannot trust its old partner [Russia, among the world’s biggest gas exporters], which is authoritarian and uses gas as an instrument of war,” and is making efforts to secure alternative sources.

“We have adopted a new strategy in Europe, called RePower EU, which has several elements […] With regard to gas, which is considered a transitional energy, we are looking for alternative suppliers […] Mozambique is among the alternatives,” Sánchez-Benedito Gaspar stressed. The Spanish diplomat (EU Representative) ended his mission in Mozambique in July and replaced by the Italian Ambassador Antonino Maggiore.

According to Noticias, an information portal, the government is creating the necessary conditions for resumption of TotalEnergies-led Mozambique LNG project, a verification team is already working in Cabo Delgado.

Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Carlos Zacarias, explained that the government wanted to see operations resume as soon as possible. “The security situation in the area where the TotalEnergies and ExxonMobil projects will be implemented has, in our view, improved a lot. Naturally, before resuming activities, there will be a lot of scrutiny on the part of the companies carrying out the investments,” Minister Zacarias said.

Carlos Zacarias said although the government considered the conditions for the resumption of the project were improving, it was up to the company to verify if, from its point of view, the environment to recommence activities was in place. The restoration of security in the district of Palma has permitted the return of some of the residents and the resumption of some economic activities.

According to Minister Zacarias, in the same way that the population was gradually returning following the improvement of security conditions, economic enterprises could also do so. That it was not just the TotaEnergies project that had been suspended, but also many others such as the roads under construction in various locations.

In April last year, the multinational Total announced the withdrawal of all personnel from its LNG project in Afungi. The Mozambique LNG offshore project, valued at around US$20 billion, aims to extract about 13.12 million tonnes of recoverable gas over 25 years and generate profits of US$60.8 billion, half of which will go to the Mozambican state.

Total E&P Mozambique Area 1 Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Total SE, operates the Mozambique LNG project, with a 26.5% equity interest, together with ENH Rovuma Area 1, S.A. (15%), Mitsui E&P Mozambique Area 1 Limited (20%), ONGC Videsh Rovuma Limited (10%), Beas Rovuma Energy Mozambique Limited (10%), BPRL Ventures Mozambique B.V. (10%), and PTTEP Mozambique Area 1 Limited (8.5%).

In order to achieve the task of exporting to Europe, the Mozambique’s National Petroleum Institute (INP) intends to maximize the use of Mozambican labour in gas extraction projects in Mozambique, generating 14,000 possible jobs in the four major projects under way.

Director of Local Content at the INP, Natália Camba, clearly pointed to the latest projects including Mozambique LNG and Rovuma LNG, which are both onshore gas liquefaction projects in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, the Coral Sul floating LNG platform, anchored some 40 kilometres off the Cabo Delgado coast, and the Inhassoro-Temane project in the southern province of Inhambane.

The Mozambique LNG project involves gas liquefaction plants on the Afungi Peninsula, in Palma district. But it is currently interrupted and there is no firm date for the resumption of activities, due to the attacks by islamist terrorists. But once the security issues are solved, the project should create 5,000 jobs for Mozambicans in the construction phase and 1,200 in the operational phase, with a plan to train 2,500 technicians.

In the case of the projects already underway, namely Coral Sul FLNG and Inhassoro-Temane, they have jointly made available 3,820 jobs in the construction phase alone, with a forecast of around 486 fixed jobs in the production phase, including foreign labour that will be reduced in the subsequent phases.

“These projects also have a great capacity to create indirect jobs, with foreign labour decreasing throughout the project and Mozambican labour increasing. Most of these jobs are expected to be provided by contractors and subcontractors,” she said, and it is expected 88 per cent of those recruited would work in construction.

With its strategy to meet the demand for skilled labour for the extractive industry projects in the country, according to the director, the INP intends to develop a framework of skilled human resources to meet the demands of the market, as well as to combat the discrepancy between the investments made in the industry and its capacity to generate employment.

In the framework of Local Content, the INP’s actions with the companies operating the gas projects envisages the qualification, training and certification of about 200 Small and Medium Enterprises operating to internationally required standards.

The armed insurgency that began in 2017 in Cabo Delgado province, the entry of foreign troops to support Mozambican forces in the middle of last year has improved the security situation, recovering important positions such as the village of Mocímboa da Praia. Since July 2021, an offensive by government troops was fixed, with the support of Rwandan and later by the Standby Joint Force consisting forces from members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Cabo Delgado province, located in northern Mozambique, is rich in natural gas. Although the gas from the three projects approved so far has a destination, Mozambique has proven reserves of over 180 trillion cubic feet, according to data from the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy. With an approximate population of 30 million, Mozambique is endowed with natural resources. It is a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the African Union.

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The Messy Fate of Coal: War, Heat, and Instability Delay a Global Phaseout

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As Europe becomes increasingly divorced from Russian natural gas, Germany, Austria, Italy, Denmark, the UK, and the Netherlands recently announced plans to restart phased-out coal power plants for the coming winter if necessary. Ironically, European countries were reprimanding India and China last November for rewording a key goal of the Glasgow Climate Pact from the “phase-out” to the “phasedown” of “unabated coal power.” “China and India are going to have to explain themselves to the most climate vulnerable countries in the world,” said British MP and conference president Alok Sharma. And with an August 22 start to the EU’s ban on Russian coal nearing, the EU and UK are turning to South Africa and Botswana as their main coal supply alternatives, despite recently agreeing to help give South Africa $8.5 billion to decrease its dependence on coal through the 2021 Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP). However temporary, Europe’s moves to bring back coal represent a step backwards from the UN Paris Climate Agreement goal of a coal-free EU by 2030 and the UK’s goal of being coal-free by October 1, 2024.

The loss of Russian natural gas is just one of many unforeseen obstacles delaying a global transition away from coal, which provides over one-third of the world’s electricity yet generates the most pollution and greenhouse gases. In India, the immediate task of preventing the country from becoming unlivably hot has been taking precedence over UN decarbonization goals for 2070. Amid a 120-degree heat wave this past May, coal shortages in 9 of 28 Indian states caused power outages of up to 14 hours per day. The lack of electricity for fans and air conditioners during the current heat wave has resulted in 90 deaths across India and Pakistan this year.

India has the world’s third-largest coal reserves in the ground, but its coal stockpiles have dwindled. This has hampered its efforts to close the gap between those with cooling systems and those without. Only 12% of Indians have air conditioning, and some 323 million (nearly equal to the entire US population) lack access to working fans and refrigerators, according to a May report by Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL). Many Indian farms are losing up to half of their produce as it rots in the heat in the absence of working fans.

Meanwhile, after mass blackouts last year, electricity demand in China has already set records this summer, due to heat waves and high factory activity amid its post-pandemic industrial rebound. In June, these strains on China’s grid prompted premier Li Keqiang to urge “tapping into advanced coal capacity” and to call for “efforts to ramp up efficient and clean coal power production… underpinning the push for renewables such as wind and solar power,” according to Chinese state media. In fact, over half of the new coal plants being built in the world today are in China, contrary to President Xi Xinping’s 2021 promise that China would reach peak coal use in 2025 and start phasing it down in 2026.

Xi’s current rhetoric has emphasized the need to balance lowering carbon emissions with maintaining social stability and productivity. In January, he said in a Politburo session that the goal of greenhouse gas reduction should not conflict with other priorities that “ensure the normal life of the masses,” like providing food, energy, and materials. “The gradual withdrawal of traditional energy must be based on the safe and reliable replacement by new energy,” said Xi.

But even as China produces and consumes half the world’s coal and continues to invest in new coal plants, its eventual transition away from coal could be sharp. China has rapidly developed alternative energy sources, such that now—despite being the world’s biggest polluter—it is a “clean energy powerhouse,” the world’s biggest investor in green energy and the world leader in solar, wind, and hydropower. In recent decades, China has dramatically reduced the cost of solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles, to the world’s benefit. Shenzhen, the fourth-largest city in China, converted all of its over 16,000 buses and another 22,000 taxis to electric vehicles over a decade, with the help of national and local government mandates and subsidies. The province of Qinghai, population 6 million, has become a wind and solar showcase and ran on entirely renewable energy for a week. And China may soon become the world leader in nuclear energy as well: In November 2021, it announced plans to build 150 nuclear reactors (which emit no greenhouse gases or pollution) by 2035, more than the rest of the world has built in the past 35 years. In short, while China will continue to use coal as a bridge to the future, its success in developing alternative energy sources—along with its habit of building infrastructure, like coal plants, then tearing it down within a few decades—are signs that by China may be poised to make a dramatic shift away from coal by 2040, if not earlier.
 
China (57%) and India (51%) both get over half their electricity from coal today. They provide energy for 36% of the world’s population, much of which received electricity for the first time in the last decade or two. And in the ASEAN region, coal power has skyrocketed due to hyper-speed industrialization and plentiful available coal reserves, especially in Indonesia and Vietnam. Many ASEAN coal plants were built by China through the Belt and Road Initiative, and while many coal plants in the West are 40 or 50 years old, Southeast Asia’s are the youngest in the world, averaging under 12 years old. But the coal plant building spree in Southeast Asia may soon slow dramatically, as China, Japan, and South Korea, the region’s top three foreign funders of coal plants, have all recently announced that they are cutting funding for new coal projects overseas.

The West on the whole has managed to drastically reduce coal use, in the EU to roughly half 1990s levels and in the US to 1980s levels. But on closer inspection, the regions and countries within the West are heavily divided on coal. For example, France’s coal use is near zero, as 70% of its electricity comes from nuclear power. By contrast, coal provides nearly half the electricity in Poland, and it is still a significant power source in the Czech Republic, Germany, Bulgaria, and the UK. Only two EU countries still produce any coal at all, Poland (96%) and the Czech Republic (4%), making the region especially vulnerable to the upcoming EU ban on Russian coal.

US coal use peaked in the late 2000s, and since then, scores of coal plants across America have been retired or converted to natural gas plants, which are fed by the US fracking boom. But coal use varies widely across US states. For example, West Virginia still gets 88% of its electricity from coal and Indiana 47%, whereas Texas is at 20% and Vermont and Rhode Island are coal-free.

The coal divide also runs through Africa and Latin America. While both regions have largely avoided coal dependence, South Africa and Botswana are the exceptions. South Africa is world’s most coal-dependent nation, getting 90% of its electricity from coal. It has 19 of Africa’s 36 coal plants, while many African countries have none. Latin America enjoys plentiful hydropower as well as oil and gas reserves, and only 5% of its electricity comes from coal, with very few new coal plants planned. Under President Jair Bolsonaro, however, Brazil’s Mines and Energy Ministry last year published a nearly $4 billion plan to invest in “sustainable use of the national mineral coal.” And in January, Bolsonaro extended government subsidies for coal plants from 2027 to 2040 in Santa Catarina, one of Brazil’s coal-rich southern states. Bolsonaro’s initiatives are an attempt to boost the economies of southern Brazil, but they have drawn criticism domestically and abroad.

Australia is an energy paradox: a wealthy, modern country with massive natural resources and a population smaller than Texas, yet which relies on coal for around 75% of its electricity. There are many reasons for this. First, coal is abundant lucrative: Australia has the third-largest coal reserves in the world and is the world’s largest exporter of coal, mostly to Asia (although China banned Australian coal in 2020). Second, Australia is the driest inhabited continent, with very limited and unpredictable rivers to generate hydropower, which provides only about 5% of its electricity. And third, despite having one third of the world’s uranium stores, Australia has never had a nuclear power plant.

But the fate of coal power in Australia may shift dramatically in the next few years. The country is rapidly deploying wind and solar farms as the prices of turbines and solar panels drop, such that last December, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) announced that Australia is on track to cut its coal capacity by 60% by 2030. In February, Australia’s Origen Energy announced plans to shut down country’s biggest coal plant in 2025, seven years earlier than scheduled. In June, the state of Western Australia announced it will shut down its two remaining coal plants by 2030. And in July, The Australian Academy of Technical Sciences and Engineering projected that Australia could generate half its electricity from renewable sources by 2025—and 69% by 2030. If these predictions come true, Australia’s transition away from heavy coal dependence would be the fastest the world has ever seen.  

The global transition away from coal has been anything but smooth. It is possible that more regions that have made great progress in phasing out coal will be considering bringing it back, amid new unforeseen obstacles to energy security. And it could be decades before China and India, the behemoth coal consumers, start to cut back on coal significantly—especially as China has been investing heavily in clean coal research. But as cases like Australia and even China show, every day that coal hangs on, renewables are expanding and becoming cheaper. And this is a sign that an eventual end to the coal era could be on the horizon.

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Despite its High Interest, Russia Achieves Little in Oil and Gas Sector in Africa

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According to the World Bank, Russia holds the world’s largest natural gas reserves, the second largest coal reserves, and the eighth largest oil reserves. Over the past years, Russia has expressed heightened interest in exploring and producing oil and gas in Africa. Emboldened African leaders and industry executives have accepted proposals, several agreements and whatever were signed, but little have been achieved in the sector. With the rapidly changing geopolitical conditions and economic fragmentation fraught with competition and rivaly, African leaders have to understand that Russia might not heavily invest in the oil and gas sector, not even in the needed infrastructure.

Nearly our monitoring, research and several interviews with experts especially inside Africa, we can conclude that Russia-Ukraine crisis has brought into its fold good opportunities. Understandably, Russia is energy self-sufficient, it does not need to import energy from Africa, it can only act as a fortified gatekeeper. It has done these several years, primarily to ensure control of Africa’s energy from entering the global market. Popular opinion now is that potential African producers can take advantage to attract investments required to build infrastructure that would enable them to expand exploration, production and exportation to meet the anticipated increase in demand in Europe.

Reading the daily news feed, Russia’s interests about possible participation in the oil and gas related projects is perceived by some experts as a bid to either sabotage or control the flow of gas from Africa into Europe. Many more experts have scholarly written about the implications of Russia-Ukraine crisis, and what that means especially for Africa. The crisis casts a long shadow across Africa. Despite the geographical distance, there are implications the need for forging pan-African solidarity and adherence to working towards developing the continent’s natural resources. If this is not done, then Africa will continue importing oil and gas, and increasingly certain to sit on the untapped reserves.

During June 2021 interview discussions with NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, a pan-African company that focuses on research, documentation, negotiations and transactions in the energy sector, expressed the urgent necessity for scaling up Africa’s production capacity in order to achieve universal access to energy. He further noted the challenging tasks and pointed strongly to the need for a transformative partnership-based strategy, (that requires transparency, good governance and policies that could create a favourable investment climate) and that aims at increasing access to energy for all Africans.

Natural gas, affordable and abundant in Africa, has the power to spark significant job creation and capacity-building opportunities, economic diversification and growth. Sustainable development of African economies can only be attained by the development of local industry — by investing in Africans, building up African entrepreneurs and supporting the creation of indigenous companies. It requires a cooperative efforts by Africans.

Can both have a unified approach to collaborating on issues of energy projects in Africa? To this question, NJ Ayuk said that Africa has already made an indelible mark in the oil and gas industry, and Africans must become more accountable, plan better in the energy sectors. But for some potential external investors only admire “dating and promising” and, in practical terms,  not their priority to invest in the sector.

He rhetorically asked Africa has been receiving aid for nearly six decades, and what good has it done? In order to change the tide, Africans must be responsible. Consider the impact of energy deficiency. Approximately 840 million Africans, mostly in sub-Saharan countries, have no access to electricity. Hundreds of millions have unreliable or limited power at best. Even during normal circumstances, energy poverty should not be the reality for most Africans. 

The popular narratives about the prevalence of energy poverty on the continent has to change. We need good governance that creates an enabling environment for widespread economic growth and improved infrastructure. African leaders need an unwavering determination to make Africa work for us, even when there are missteps and things go wrong.

The African Energy Chamber is raising A Banner for African Oil & Gas. It plans to hold Oil and Gas conference this October. As part of the conference, and will present its special report titled “State of African Energy Q2 2022 Report” during the conference. According to the report, increasing oil and gas activity and a record number of new discoveries have set the stage for significant industry growth in the second half of 2022.

In Namibia alone, for example, two breakthrough discoveries, Shell’s Graff and Total Energies’ Venus-1X, have opened frontier oil play onshore. Industry experts estimate that Venus-1X may hold recoverable resources of some 3 billion barrels of recoverable oil, making it Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest-ever oil discovery. Namibia, in fact, has led the way in new oil and gas activity this year and is emerging as an exploration hot spot. In northeast Namibia and northwest Botswana, ReconAfrica has licensed operations for the newly discovered 8.5-million-acre Kavango Basin, one of the world’s largest onshore undeveloped basins.

This is great news for our industry, which was hit especially hard by Covid-19 and has struggled to regain momentum. The energy sector was crippled by historically low volumes in 2020 and 2021, creating an even more critical need for new exploration. And Namibia is just one example of the new discoveries being made all over Africa. The Q2 2022 report outlines a number of new developments across the continent.

Eni discovered the Baleine field in Cote d’Ivoire last year, which contains as many as 2 billion barrels of recoverable oil and nearly 2 Tcf of gas offshore. This is a big deal for Côte d’Ivoire, which up until now has been producing about 34,000 barrels of crude per day from four blocks. 

In Angola, TotalEnergies is drilling for the first time since 2018 and has executed a sale and purchase agreement with state-owned Sonangol for two blocks in the Kwanza Basin offshore. Other majors, including ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, and Eni, are active in Angola as well. More than a dozen high-impact wells are predicted in the next 18 months in Libya, Ghana, Mozambique, South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, Morocco, Egypt, and others. Egypt alone has awarded eight oil and gas exploration blocks to Eni, BP, Apex International, Energean, United Energy, Enap Sipetrol, and INA.

And after long delays because of Covid-19, licensing rounds are planned, open, or under evaluation in more than a dozen countries including Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Gabon, and Congo. The results are expected to be announced this year. Higher greenfield spending is also forecast as more projects get the green light. In Kenya, for example, large investments are expected in the greenfield onshore development of Tullow’s South Lokichar basin, Turkana County. At an estimated 585 billion barrels, this is widely considered one of the last big conventional onshore projects in the world.

These discoveries and others referenced in the Chamber’s Q2 2022 report are tremendously exciting. And if managed them properly, it could make significant progress toward the goal of a just energy transition: alleviating energy poverty, stimulating economic growth, and improving the lives of everyday Africans.

The State of African Energy Q2 2022 Report outlines an unprecedented level of new oil and gas discoveries on the African continent. The simple, staggering fact that more than half of Sub-Saharan Africans lack access to electricity means priority must continue to end energy poverty. With Africa’s population projected to exceed two billion by 2040, generation capacity will need to be doubled by 2030 and multiplied fivefold by 2050.

Oil and gas are Africa’s lifeblood and the foundation for economic development. The future depends on sustaining the longevity of the industry. And with such vast quantities of oil and gas available, we should increase production accordingly and use those resources to benefit Africans. 

Africa’s wealth of new oil discoveries is not only a chance to recover some of the devastating losses suffered in the last two years — it represents an opportunity to achieve an energy transition that benefits all Africans. According to the report, increasing oil and gas activity and a record number of new discoveries have set the stage for significant industry growth in the second half of 2022.

Some experts interviewed have expressed their thoughts. Some believe that Europe can look to Africa as preferred energy supplier. On the other hand, Africa is ready to welcome investors currently pulling out of Russia if they can genuinely invest in developing oil and gas infrastructure which Africa seriously lacks in this industry. That’s a real opportunity, I think, for Africa at this point in time. 

Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, OPEC Secretary General, (before his death early July) stressed is his last speech that “It is essential if we are to develop new technologies, strengthen the human capacity and remain leaders in innovation so that we can do our part to meet the world’s growing need for energy, shrink our overall environmental footprint, and expand access to underserved communities. Yet the industry is now facing huge challenges along multiple fronts, and these threaten the investment potential now and in the longer term.” 

Regrettably, we are seeing global energy cooperation becoming more fragmented. New regional alignments are threatening to reverse years of progress towards creating a more stable and interconnected energy system. We cannot afford to allow multilateral energy cooperation and global energy security become collateral damage of geopolitics, the OPEC Secretary General said.

As an author of this article, I would acknowledge that for African countries with huge oil and gas reserves, it is necessary to underscore the importance of cooperation in exploring and producing this resource to support the needed sustainable development goals, and attempt at becoming more prominent on the global energy stage.

Today, African countries face major challenges. Rapid population growth and the worsening energy crisis are constraining economic growth on the continent. In addition to that, poor transport infrastructure, access of the population to health services, low level of education and food supply insecurity are severely hampering efforts to improve the quality of life throughout Africa.

Our monitoring, research and analysis show that Africa has the fastest-growing population in the world, but half of this population is without energy supply. That is why African leaders have to seriously prioritize the right energy policies to make access to energy the most effective way possible in Africa.

Russian Presidential Special Representative for Middle East and Africa, Mikhail Bogdanov, in an April interview to Interfax news agency, he was asked “many people in Europe are convinced that Africa is capable of increasing the production and supplies of gas to Europe instead of Russia’s. In your opinion, how realistic is this?” He explained that “the world is governed by market rules. The reason is the existence of a whole system – consumer markets, traditional suppliers, contracts, not to mention pipelines and oil terminals. In short, this cannot be done in an instant. It will take years to replace supply chains and to build new infrastructure.”

Bogdanov says Africa is beyond any doubt the continent of the future, both from the point of view of human resources and because it is a storeroom of the world, one of the richest regions. Another issue is that colonial powers, as well as neocolonialists, have never let the Africans take advantage of the treasure which is literally right under their feet. People are working despite the fact that unscrupulous Western competitors are trying to hinder the operations.

President Vladimir Putin addressed the plenary session of the VTB Capital Russia Calling! Investment Forum held VTB Bank. As usual, the forum brought together from all over the world, business leaders, investment managers and consultants, as well as international experts in the field of the economy and finance. Putin had the opportunity, not only to listen to academics and researchers, sometimes even opposing views of the current developments, but also enjoyed interactive exchange of opinions with potential investors, an insight into the mood of business partners both in Russia and abroad.

On Africa, Putin noted at the VTB Capital’s Russia Calling Forum, that many countries had been “stepping up their activities on the African continent” but added that Russia could not cooperate with Africa “as it was in the Soviet period, for political reasons.” For decades, Russia has been looking for effective ways to promote multifaceted ties and new strategies for cooperation in energy, oil and gas, trade and industry in Africa.

But so far, Russia’s investment efforts in the region have been limited which experts attributed to lack of a system of financing policy projects. While Russia government is very cautious about making financial commitments, Russia’s financial institutions are not involved in financing initiatives in Africa. 

At the same time, Russian companies currently have a limited presence in Africa, simply there are no stimulus for efforts to localize production of equipment and strengthen technological partnership in the sector. Russia contentiously claims the leading position as a supplier and now rapidly diversifying its products at discounted prices to Asian market. With the emerging new economic order, it is simply logical that Africans should not expect much in this oil and gas sector from Russia.

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