Natural Gas for Africa: Ready, Set, Go!

From MasterResource

By Robert Bradley Jr. — April 7, 2022

“The question is, can European leaders and organizations let go of the dynamics that have dictated their dealings with Africa in the past — actions that prioritized climate objectives above Africa’s most pressing needs — and begin embracing the many benefits natural gas has to offer both continents?” (African Energy Chamber, April 4, 2022)

No reading between the lines needed. An energy policy reset is in the works away from wind and solar and toward natural gas. Oil is already the mainstay of the transportation market in Africa (no Richie Rich EVs, please). Coal is well ensconced. It is past time to go natural gas/LNG, just as the EU itself earlier this year reluctantly agreed to do (along with blessing nuclear power).

Sorry EU, but energy imperialism needs to be demoted in the name of affordability, reliability, and self-determination.

The African Energy Chamber (AEC) editorial, “It’s Time for Europe and Africa [to] Agree on a Green Gas Deal,” talks about natural gas-to-hydrogen as a way station to climate goals. Never mind a bone thrown to the UN; “blue” hydrogen adds a layer of unnecessary cost and is criticized by environmentalists as ineffective given methane leaks and without carbon capture and storage (“grey” hydrogen).

Let natural gas be natural gas for residential, commercial, industrial, and power generation.

The polite-but-firm 1,400-word editorial follows:

It would be fair to say that when it comes to Africa’s energy industry, Africa and Europe have been at odds for the last several years.

Europe, which has valid concerns about protecting the climate and moving the world toward net-zero emissions goals, has been urging African oil- and gas-producing states not only to accelerate their transition to green energy sources, but also to send it into overdrive. The general sentiment in the European Union (EU) is that the time for new oil and gas projects in Africa has passed.

African Oil and Gas Producers and the African Energy Chamber (AEC) have been outspoken in our objection to European environmental groups, leaders, and financial institutions interfering in our energy industry, particularly when it discourages funding for new African petroleum projects. We even called for a boycott last July of European firms that cut off African oil and gas investments.

As you might expect, African countries have been equally frustrated with the EU’s interference. They are less than keen about turning their backs on the benefits their fossil fuel resources have to offer, particularly natural gas. When you consider that natural gas can ease the continent’s widespread energy poverty, help provide reliable electricity for nearly 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa without reliable electricity, and be monetized to create the funds Africa will need for a successful energy transition, it’s easy to see why.

Nevertheless, the EU has been relentless in its push to halt Africa’s natural gas production. Until recently, that is.

A seismic shift began late last summer when Europe was faced with rising commodity prices and low natural gas supplies. Output from renewables wasn’t able to fill the gap, making coal use a necessary evil to meet their needs. European leaders started recognizing that the increased use of natural gas, which emits the least carbon dioxide of all fossil fuels, was their best strategy for sustainably protecting Europe’s energy security in the short term.

By early 2022, the EU declared that natural gas (along with nuclear power) can be considered green energy — as long as it emits less than 270 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour.

Perspectives evolved further after Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Currently, the European Union relies on Russia for 45% of its imported gas, which totaled about 155 billion cubic meters last year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates. But earlier this month, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would release proposals for phasing out its dependency on Russian fossil fuels by 2027.

Today, the world is starting to recognize the critical role Africa’s vast natural gas resources could play in meeting Europe’s needs. The EU is also eying Africa’s potential for the production of green hydrogen, that is, hydrogen produced with renewable energy sources. Countries like Germany have already determined that they cannot produce the large quantities of green hydrogen they’ll need to achieve their zero-emissions goals on their own.

As a result, they’ve started setting the stage for successful import agreements with African producers by investing in infrastructure and African capacity-building programs. I was in Berlin Last week when Namibian Mines and Energy Minister Tom Alweendo and German Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck, signed a Joint Declaration of Intent on cooperation in the field of green hydrogen during the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue. Namibia has a Green Hydrogen project that has advanced a lot thanks to the work of James Mnyupe, Namibia’s presidential economic adviser and hydrogen commissioner and his team but more work is needed.

Frankfurt based, Emerging Energy Corporation has signed an agreement with the government of Niger to work on Green Hydrogen and also reduce carbon emissions in the oil fields and at the same time seek ways to get gas and hydrogen through pipelines into Europe.

Clearly, Africa has an important role to play in meeting European energy needs today and tomorrow. The question is, can European leaders and organizations let go of the dynamics that have dictated their dealings with Africa in the past — actions that prioritized climate objectives above Africa’s most pressing needs — and begin embracing the many benefits natural gas has to offer both continents?

Can we forge an alliance of mutual respect and cooperation, a “Green Gas Deal” of cooperation so to speak? I believe we can, and we must.

If we do, if European governments and businesses start ramping up their investments in African natural gas projects, they’ll accelerate the infrastructure development necessary for African countries to start exporting more gas and hydrogen to Europe, freeing countries there from reliance on Russia.

What’s more, European investments in Africa will open the doors to more gas-to-power projects with the potential to ease African energy poverty. The investments will open the door to industrial projects that use gas as a feedstock, such as chemical and fertilizer plants, that will diversify African economies. And they’ll foster the revenue generation that African countries will need to grow their energy mix and set the stage for a successful energy transition.

Now Is the Time to Invest in Africa

Besides, investing in African gas is a sound business move. For one thing, the African Energy Chamber’s efforts to foster a positive investment environment in Africa have already been productive. African governments like Nigeria, Uganda, and Namibia have been working to create business-friendly policies, from fair local content policies to improved fiscal regimes that enhance international oil companies’ (IOCs’) ability to operate profitably within their borders.

This October, the AEC plans to highlight Africa’s downstream, midstream, and upstream oil and gas opportunities with our Africa Energy Week, which will take place in Cape Town Oct. 18-21. It’s important to remember that Africa remains under-explored and still has vast stores of oil and gas. During the last year alone, there have been major discoveries in South Africa, Namibia, Gabon, and off the coast of Cote d’Ivoire, to name a few.

Not only do solid investment opportunities for Europe exist in exploration and production, but also in gas infrastructure. European governments, businesses, and organizations can facilitate African natural gas imports to their countries by investing in African gas infrastructure including pipelines, LNG export terminals, and maritime logistics operations. We hope to see businesses join forces, along with the creation of public-private partnerships, to drive these infrastructure projects forward.

Promising Steps

When it comes to a new era of energy cooperation, Europe and Africa are already moving in the right direction.

For example, I’m extremely encouraged by the commitment of Frans Timmermans, executive vice president of the European Commission, to participate in the AEC’s 2022 African Energy Week (AEW) in Cape Town this October. Timmermans will take part in investor forums, panel discussions, and meetings with African energy ministers, Presidents, Team Energy Africa and Oil and Gas industry stakeholders.

Meanwhile, the African Energy Chamber has met with the European Commission in Brussels and spoken to German leaders in Berlin about the role African hydrogen can play in Europe’s energy transition with great thanks and credit to the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and particularly Anja Beretta, the Director of the Energy Security and Climate Change Program for convincing us to be on the table and speak up our views. She never tried to muscle us and it was respectful.

I only hope this pattern of open, respectful communication continues.

To build on this moment, we will need strong leadership. As I’ve said more than once, Africa and the EU need to think about our energy relationship not in terms of a binary choice between oil, natural gas, and coal production and climate change mitigation but rather in the context of energy security and a just energy transition. Rising energy prices and the conflicts underscore the urgency to do both.

That said, after my conversations with EU officials, I believe both Africa and Europe can rise to the challenge.

Africa can help Europe ease its dependence on Russian natural gas and produce the hydrogen it will need to meet its net-zero ambitions. And at the same time, Europe can support Africa’s goals for a just energy transition on our own timeline, one that allows us to use our oil and gas resources to build renewable energy infrastructure, skills, and technologies. One that will not negate our efforts to alleviate energy poverty.

We can, as allies, create the energy futures we both need and want. Now let’s change our mindset and get to work.

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April 7, 2022 10:17 pm

But here in South Africa, activists have stopped fracking and seismic exploration.

Reply to  Franz Dullaart
April 7, 2022 10:20 pm

Follow the money – who is funding those activists?

4E Douglas
Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
April 8, 2022 7:16 pm


Reply to  Franz Dullaart
April 7, 2022 11:36 pm

Franz, in your country, my guess is that they are financed and influenced by Chinese money, and will be so until you agree to belt-and-road usery and subjugation — or throw them out.
And go nuclear, btw. South Africa, with perhaps a few of your neighbors, should be well equipped to develop your own nuclear power industry.

Michael in Dublin
Reply to  dk_
April 8, 2022 3:39 am

It would be very costly for Africa and even South Africa to expand nuclear power when they have plenty of much cheaper fossil fuels. It would be far better to use this more efficiently and reduce the pollution caused by particulates as a transition to something better that has not yet become economically and practically feasible.

Reply to  Michael in Dublin
April 8, 2022 5:13 pm

Nuclear energy is both practical and feasible for South Africa. It has never failed economically. It is demonstrably safer than coal and than wood, grass, or dung burned indoors. It is likely that had so much of Europe not chosen to get rid of serviceable nuclear power plants, there would not be a war right now over natural gas. Better to spread your bets than to go with one source.

April 7, 2022 11:16 pm

Say no to #Eco-Colonialism

April 8, 2022 12:01 am
energy reliability China style.
The National Development and Reform Commission approved the project in 2019, and it started operation before obtaining local permits, according to the report. The license from Ordos now allows it to produce legally. 
China’s top officials have told leaders in mining regions to expand production capacity by 300 million tons this year as the country leans on coal to secure energy supplies and insulate itself from soaring global energy prices. 

Ordos, in western Inner Mongolia, is the biggest coal mining hub in China and produces more of the fuel than any other country in the world. Its output was 197 million tons in the first two months of the year, on pace to reach 1.18 billion tons for the year.

Old Man Winter
Reply to  RobK
April 8, 2022 1:44 am

China’s Belt & Road may be the major driver of Africa’s push back against
the EU, as they want workable, profitable solutions & only pay lip service to
Greens. The criminals running China are doing it to turn Africa into just
another profit center which they eventually hope to own.

It’s a strange world where idealist ChiComs have become capitalists & the
capitalists have become idiotic idealists. Go figure!!!

Reply to  Old Man Winter
April 8, 2022 5:45 am

One Chinese business model is to invite collaboration from and investment by a foreign ‘partner’, then kick the partner out once they’ve built the infrastructure that the Chinese wanted (the now infamous Wuhan virus laboratory being a good example). Perhaps African countries will learn from this in their dealings with the Chinese.

Chris Hanley
April 8, 2022 12:51 am

Europe, which has valid concerns about protecting the climate and moving the world toward net-zero emissions goals …

Does Dr Kachikwu, Nigerian politician and former ‘Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’ (Wiki), genuinely believe that or is he merely ‘soft-soaping’ delicate European sensibilities to attract business?
Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that if it works.

Michael in Dublin
April 8, 2022 3:32 am

Africa has huge untapped resources under the ground and decent weather for huge agricultural production above the ground. They could shift to electricity from gas and improve their electrified rail system – both which would favor a booming free market situation. However, incompetence, maladminstration, corruption and politics bedevils the situation. Europe has millions of blacks – economic refugees – pouring in to exploit the freebies of stupid Europeans. They should, instead, be encouraging these black people to get their own house in order and a no work no food policy would be a very good place to start.

Reply to  Michael in Dublin
April 12, 2022 4:55 am

Although I find your comment rather rude, there is some truth in it. Still, you have to understand that politics has always divided countries into rich and poor, and usually those who have resources are in the latter group, there are always buyers and sellers, and when there is no money in the economy to build their own, they sell components cheaper than usual. If you try to contact intelligent people from those countries, they will say the same thing, because they see the situation from the inside. 

Geoff Sherrington
April 8, 2022 3:45 am

I shake my head in disbelief of the scenario that African countries have to bow to EU bureaucrats about the development of their countries, because climate change.
What a horrible, synthetic mess.
Just think how much simpler it will all be when the adults in the rooms finally realize that climate change is a myth.
It is a scientific myth, I mean, but it is an economic weapon that makes Africans feel that they should kowtow to EU officials.
If you are a real scientist and if you see that the present version of climate change (the enforcer version) is an invention to overpower the economies of others, then you have to speak up for the sake of the future world. Sitting on your hands and looking anxious is not a valid path to progress.
Geoff S

April 8, 2022 3:52 am

Watched a documentary on Lake Kivu in Africa. There appears to be an abundance of nat gas in the lake to provide years worth of energy. It appears to be seepage from a volcanic area. There is lots of nat gas in Africa.

Ed Zuiderwijk
Reply to  mkelly
April 8, 2022 8:40 am

That gas is carbon dioxide, not methane. And pretty deadly too. When the bottom layers of the lake get saturated any minor disturbance can trigger a massive release of the gas which, being heavier than air will suffocate any breathing organism on its shores. Look it up, ‘lake nyos disaster’.

Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
April 9, 2022 11:39 am

Gee Ed why did a German spend several years studying the lake for CH4 concentration and how could there be power plants using CO2 to provide local power?

Watch the documentary then get back to me.

jeff corbin
April 8, 2022 6:54 am

There are is only one sub-Saharan African LNG port in Equatorial Guinea who imports LNG from Nigeria who has 6 LNG port for exportation. Russian’s current economic problems, (per capita income lower than India) could be pinned on the Prebisch-Singer hypothesis. This is why Russia needs China… to invest and advance the manufacturing through out Russia and central Asia. Certainly the Prebisch-Singer hypothesis operated in Nigeria with a large exodus of Nigerians around the world as oil became the only Nigerian cash cow. The Russian Oligarchy is likely a symptom of the Prebisch-Singer hypothesis as it was in Saudi Arabia…until recently. Hey somebody has to be rich eh!. The Putin reset is to work with China to balance his Hydrocarbon cash cow with Manufacturing. One way for Africa to keep from becoming economically colonized by Russia & China (R&C) is to advance it’s capacity to rule it’s own commodities (raw food/energy) markets and balance energy exports with manufactured goods for exportation. This means it will be more likely to partner with China because China knows how to do this. Developing hydrocarbon fuel resources in African may not necessarily help them if hydrocarbon fuel exportation becomes the primary cash cow. Africa would be better served by a hydrocarbon extraction and distribution market that is localized and that does not export, ignores the spot prices, sells a near cost prices compared to the globalized colluded hydrocarbon fuel markets, in order to quickly advance manufacturing. If America did the same thing, it would collapse the global market and our oil would stay in the ground…especially if we converted to CNG.
From Wikipedia: In economics, the Prebisch–Singer hypothesis (also called the Prebisch–Singer thesis) argues that the price of primary commodities declines relative to the price of manufactured goods over the long term, which causes the terms of trade of primary-product-based economies to deteriorate.


April 8, 2022 7:49 am

Natural gas is the ultimate “renewable”; much better than wood chips or used cooking fats. It is produced by anaerobic decomposition of biological materials. It burns clean (four hydrogen atoms for each carbon atom). For years we have produced it for power in sewage treatment plants and garbage land fills. The same technology can be applied to hog farms and leaf collections. Potentially it is a more reliable and cheaper source of energy than either solar or wind.

Then there is the fact that nature has been producing it all along, and stored it in the ground for us to discover and use.

Construct the needed distribution system and frack on!

Ed Zuiderwijk
Reply to  Fred Haynie
April 8, 2022 8:41 am

The clue is in the name.

Reply to  Fred Haynie
April 12, 2022 10:55 pm

A proper distribution system is what we need because some suffer from oversupply and some try to replace it with nuclear power or timber, which is very bad for the climate. Besides using what the planet gives us, we have to give something back. I recommend you check out the free video chat, we are so actively discussing this problem and I think there will be people who will be willing to clarify your question.

Janice Moore
April 8, 2022 9:47 am

“… Europe, which has valid concerns about protecting the climate… .”

No. Such concerns are not valid.

There is not one piece of data proving causation between CO2 emissions and any harm to “the climate.”

April 8, 2022 1:32 pm

Europeans of all people have no business telling Africans how to use their own resources. Africans need to tell them to take a hike. If Europeans want to help develop Africa’s energy they are welcome to but the energy must supply Africa’s needs first.

April 8, 2022 11:07 pm

natural gas-to-hydrogen as a way station to climate goals.
Goofy idea. More efficient to simply use natural gas.

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