In this episode of TRT World's Roundtable, broadcast on 21 July, Thomas Scurfield, Africa senior economic analyst at NRGI, discusses Africa's capacity to increase gas production to fill Europe's immediate energy supply gap, as well as potential risks and opportunities. Scurfield appeared alongside Akshat Rathi, senior reporter for climate at Bloomberg, and Carlos Lopes, former head of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
Examining which countries in Africa can increase gas production in the next few years, Scurfield highlights Nigeria's and Angola's liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants' spare capacity to extract more gas and supply gas to Europe if appropriate investment are made.
Projects that can’t come online until 2030 probably won’t have much of a market in Europe to supply at that point.
He adds: “But there are other countries where production is a lot further off. A country like Tanzania, that has had an LNG project plan for over a decade, hasn’t yet reach an investment decision and is unlikely to do so before 2025, meaning production won’t start until 2030. It seems like those sort of projects won’t be able to meet Europe’s needs and make the most of this opportunity from this supply crunch, given that Europe is looking to find other sources of gas right now, but actually in the longer term its main response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine is to accelerate its energy transition. And it is looking to reduce its gas consumption by 40 percent by 2030. So projects that can’t come online until then probably won’t have much of a market in Europe to supply at that point."
Scurfield also stresses that the European Union and wealthy countries in general must meet their existing climate finance commitments before new European Union investment commitments and funding pledges can be taken seriously: "It [the European Union] still isn’t providing the 100 billion USD dollars of climate finance a year that it promised back in 2009 that it would provide by 2020. It didn’t in 2020. It didn’t in 2021. And it doesn’t look like it will do in 2022. So this package of support does holds some promise, but it’s hard to take it seriously until these exciting climate finance commitments are met."
On the question of whether Africa should invest in costly pipelines that require years of planning and construction, given Europe's demand outlook, Scurfield is sceptical that by the time the pipelines are built and can deliver gas, the market in Europe will be large enough to make investing in these projects truly profitable.
He says, "There’s a worry that governments from the countries involved in those, because of the likely private investor reluctance to get involved or at least cover all the costs, would stump up a significant amount of the money required and then those pipelines wouldn’t actually generate the expected returns. There is a real risk of those pipelines being talked up now because of this hype around European demand, but them actually becoming stranded assets and a real dead weight on the public finances of the countries involved.”