Green Energy Africa Summit

Gas reserves off the East Coast of Africa have a far lower carbon content than the global average, making them an attractive opportunity for global investors and international export markets during the energy transition.

This was one of the insights shared at a panel discussion on the role of African gas at the Africa Oil Week (AOW) Investing in African Energy event being held in Cape Town this week.

“The beauty of gas derived from the East Coast of Africa is that it is extremely low on CO2 content,” said Unni Fijaer, vice-president and Tanzania country manager for Equinor, which is currently developing offshore natural gas resources in Tanzania. “This East African gas has around one-third of the global average of carbon content, and is also extremely low in liquids. It is a really pure gas, which makes it ideal for meeting the world’s energy needs while minimising its carbon emissions impacts.”

Fijaer was speaking at an AOW panel discussion on how Africa might monetise its gas resources by unlocking its enormous reserves to meet its domestic energy needs and also accessing export markets.

Several speakers at the conference have highlighted the role of gas as a transition fuel during the move toward a renewables-based energy future. Natural gas can meet Africa’s development needs and address the massive energy poverty on the continent, while also ensuring energy security and reliability with lower carbon emissions than oil.

As valuable as gas is for Africa, its potential as a transition fuel is yet to be truly realised.

A recent report by the International Energy Agency says that more than 5 000 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas resources have been discovered in Africa which have not yet been developed. If brought into production, these resources could provide an additional 90bcm of gas a year by 2030, while keeping the continent’s share of global carbon emissions to a mere 3.5%.

“We currently face two related global challenges,” said Fijaer. “We are facing the impacts of climate change, which we have all experienced. But at the same time, there is a significant gap when it comes to access to energy. Gas offers a solution.”

She added that gas offered an opportunity for resource-driven African development. She drew a parallel with Norway, which was able to become a highly developed nation on the back of oil discoveries off the country’s coast in 1969. “Norway was a pretty poor country, but when oil and gas were discovered, the government ensured that revenues were channelled into the country’s development. African countries with gas reserves like Tanzania can embark on a similar development journey, as long as we ensure energy projects are a win-win arrangement for both investors and the host nations.”

Another gas development off Africa’s East Coast recently began production, with operator Eni projecting it might ultimately contribute the equivalent of 2% of Mozambique’s national gross domestic product this year. The resource, in the Rovuma Basin, is estimated to hold 2 400bcm of gas.

“The Coral South Project in the Rovuma Basin is a landmark project for the industry and firmly places Mozambique onto the global LNG stage,” said Eni Rovuma Basin technical director, Ivan Codognotto. “The project has come on stream within just five years. It is already generating benefits for the Mozambican economy, creating jobs, revenue, training and business growth.”

Fijaer said energy revenues could have a transformative effect on a country, stimulating the fiscus and allowing for further investments in education and healthcare for the country’s population.

Echoing this sentiment, Ombeni Sifue, chairperson of the Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation, said the country had a right to develop its resources to support the upliftment of its people. “Africa’s resources have enriched a lot of people, but not Africans. It’s time to use Africa’s resources for its own development, and to address energy poverty.”

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